Under new playoff format, Steelers would have had four more playoff appearances in past 10 years

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With the NFL and NFL Players Association closing in on a new CBA that will expand the playoffs from 12 teams to 14, it’s tempting to consider how seven teams per conference would have played out if seven teams per conference had previously been in place. So we’ve gone 10 years down the seven-team rabbit hole in an effort to identify the franchises that would have made it, and which opponents they would have faced.

The biggest winners would have been the Steelers, who would have made the playoffs in 2019, 2018, 2013, and 2012 as the seventh seed in the AFC. (Obviously, having seven and not six playoff spots may have changed late-season dynamics, potentially altering the ultimate configuration of the playoff trees.) The Steelers also would have been forced to play in the wild-card round two more times, as the No. 2 seed in 2017 and 2010.

Losing out in an environment of expanded playoffs would have been the Patriots. A surprising 0-2 in their past two wild-card games at home, the Patriots would have played five more wild-card homes games in the past 10 years, in 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

The full list of the extra playoff games that would have been played, in each of the last 10 years, appears after the jump. (more…)

FMIA: Ten Educated Guesses On All The 2020 Offseason QB Movement

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The 2020 offseason is setting up to be a memorable one because of all the marquee quarterback movement. Peter King opens his Football Morning in America column by making 10 educated guesses on where some of the game’s biggest names will end up. Also in the column:

• Philip Rivers to the Colts? Several reasons why this could be a perfect match.

• Teddy Bridgewater to Tampa? This move makes sense if Bucs move on from Jameis Winston.

• Some new wrinkles to the NFL Scouting Combine, and our annual opportunity to mingle over beers and talk football in Indy

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on a Minnesota defender who could be on the move; a roadmap for how teams get multi-pick value out of one first-rounder;.the latest in the Mason Rudolph-Myles Garrett drama

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, a travel note and a few thoughts on the Astros cheating and the fallout. [more]

Bidwill’s reference to fan surveys, safety and health data supporting 17 games was “anecdotal”

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In making the case that a 17th game won’t impact player health and safety, Cardinals chairman Michael Bidwill made a statement that caught my attention: “I think our fans would like more. We have surveyed our fans. The heath/safety data plays out that we can do 17 games and it’s not going to impact the safety and the health of the players.”

The first part — the notion of a fan survey supporting 17 games — stood out because a simple Twitter poll last week posted to the PFT account produced a stunning degree of opposition to the idea. The second part, regarding health/safety data supporting 17 games, triggered more natural curiosity regarding the genesis and content of that data.

So I posed a simple question both to the league and to the Cardinals: Can we get more detail on the survey and safety data mentioned by Michael Bidwill?

“It wasn’t any type of formal polling or data driven research but rather anecdotal feedback from Cardinals fans he interacted with at team events and functions,” Cardinals senior V.P. of media relations Mark Dalton told PFT via text message.

Added the NFL, via email from league spokesman Brian McCarthy: “The league and teams have spoken to fans over the years to get their thoughts about a wide range of topics, including changes to the season structure. Fans have been supportive of the idea.”

In other words, there’s been no formal survey of fans regarding 17 games. And there’s been specific no health and safety data supporting the idea that 17 games won’t impact the health and safety of NFL players.

That said, it’s undeniable that the NFL has made the game safer over the past decade. Which makes it easier to justify adding a 17th game. But the game becoming safer generally isn’t the same thing as the existence of health and safety data suggesting that another regular-season weekend won’t impact player health and safety.

Here’s the broader reality regarding the push for 17 games, words and phrases aside. The league wants it, and the league is going to get it.

But what about the actual surveys or polls from fans expressing a desire to stick with 16 games? The simple truth is that, while fans may prefer 16 games, they’re not going to quit watching football games if the number moves to 17.

Thus, the better question is whether the fans want 17 games or none? If we put it that way, they’ll take 17. Eventually the players will have to answer that same question, if the league wants 17 games badly enough to lock out the players in 2021. As a lockout inches toward impacting the revenue from games that would be canceled, the players will confront — individually and collectively — the question of 17 games or no games. And they, like the fans, will choose 17 over none.

Whether the league or any of its owners will ever be so blunt and candid doesn’t matter. This is precisely how it’s going to happen, and the league is banking on the implosion of the 1987 strike after a few weeks of replacement games and the termination of the 2011 lockout on the brink of players losing real money as clear and obvious evidence that, as push approaches shove, the players won’t tell the NFL to take their 17 games and shove it.

FMIA—Patrick Mahomes Reflects on LIV Turnaround By Following Dad’s Advice: ‘It’s All About The Next Pitch’

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Patrick Mahomes stunk for three quarters of the Super Bowl, and into the fourth. What changed? Peter King opens his Football Morning in America column eight days after LIV by talking to the Chiefs quarterback about what sparked the turnaround. Also in the column:

• The elder Pat Mahomes on always focusing on the next pitch, and bestowing that wisdom on his son at a young age.

• Twelve final thoughts on the Super Bowl, including the best players on the field for both teams.

• What’s next for Taysom Hill and the Saints, and saying goodbye to the retiring Eric Weddle.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Jaguars heading to London twice in 2020, an interesting free-agent possibility and more talk of a 17-game season.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, a travel note and a Red Sox fan’s thoughts on the trade of Mookie Betts. [more]

NFL invites 337 players to Scouting Combine

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The NFL has announced the list of 337 players who have been invited to take part in this year’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow is on the list and is one of 16 players from LSU invited to participate. That’s more than any other school. Michigan and Ohio State each have 11 invited players while Alabama and Georgia are next with 10 players each.

The Scouting Combine gets underway on February 24 and the first on-field drills start on February 27. They run through March 1.

Kelly Bryant, QB, Missouri
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Kevin Davidson, QB, Princeton
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Jake Luton, QB, Oregon State
Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
James Morgan, QB, Florida International
Shea Patterson, QB, Michigan
Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
Jet Anderson, RB, TCU
LeVante Bellamy, RB, Western Michigan
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Raymond Calais, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Rico Dowdle, RB, South Carolina
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
JaMycal Hasty, RB, Baylor
Brian Herrien, RB, Georgia
Tony Jones, RB, Notre Dame
Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA
Javon Leake, RB, Maryland
Benny LeMay, RB, UNC-Charlotte
Anthony McFarland, RB, Maryland
Zack Moss, RB, Utah
Sewo Olonilua, RB, TCU
La’Mical Perine, RB, Florida
Scottie Phillips, RB, Mississippi
James Robinson, RB, Illinois State
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Patrick Taylor, RB, Memphis
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt
Mike Warren, RB, Cincinnati

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Omar Bayless, WR, Arkansas State
Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky
Tony Brown, WR, Colorado
Lawrence Cager, WR, Georgia
Marquez Callaway, WR, Tennessee
Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Florida
Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
Gabriel Davis, WR, Central Florida
Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M
Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
Chris Finke, WR, Notre Dame
Aaron Fuller, WR, Washington
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Antonio Gibson, WR, Memphis
Stephen Guidry, WR, Mississippi State
KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
John Hightower, WR, Boise State
K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon State
Trishton Jackson, WR, Syracuse
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
Juwan Johnson, WR, Oregon
Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Kalija Lipscomb, WR, Vanderbilt
Austin Mack, WR, Ohio State
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane
K.J. Osborn, WR, Miami
Aaron Parker, WR, Rhode Island
Dezmon Patmon, WR, Washington State
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Malcolm Perry, WR, Navy
Michael Pittman, WR, USC
James Proche, WR, SMU
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Joe Reed, WR, Virginia
Kendrick Rogers, WR, Texas A&M
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
Darrell Stewart, WR, Michigan State
Freddie Swain, WR, Florida
Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami
Ben Victor, WR, Ohio State
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Mississippi
Cody White, WR, Michigan State

Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA
Jacob Breeland, TE, Oregon
Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
Josiah Deguara, TE, Cincinnati
Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Sean McKeon, TE, Michigan
Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
C.J. O’Grady, TE, Arkansas
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt
Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU
Charlie Taumoepeau, TE, Portland State
Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Mitchell Wilcox, TE, South Florida
Charlie Woerner, TE, Georgia
Dom Wood-Anderson, TE, Tennessee

Trey Adams, OL, Washington
Hakeem Adeniji, OL, Kansas
Tremayne Anchrum, OL, Clemson
Ben Bartch, OL, St. John’s (MN)
Mekhi Becton, OL, Louisville
Tyler Biadasz, OL, Wisconsin
Ben Bredeson, OL, Michigan
Cohl Cabral, OL, Arizona State
Saahdiq Charles, OL, LSU
Cameron Clark, OL, UNC-Charlotte
Ezra Cleveland, OL, Boise State
Trystan Colon-Castillo, OL, Missouri
Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
Jack Driscoll, OL, Auburn
Yasir Durant, OL, Missouri
Jake Hanson, OL, Oregon
Nick Harris, OL, Washington
Charlie Heck, OL, UNC
Matt Hennessy, OL, Temple
Justin Herron, OL, Wake Forest
Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana-Lafayette
Keith Ismael, OL, San Diego State
Cordel Iwuagwu, OL, TCU
Austin Jackson, OL, USC
Jonah Jackson OL, Ohio State
Joshua Jones, OL, Houston
Solomon Kindley, OL, Georgia
Shane Lemieux, OL, Oregon
Damien Lewis, OL, LSU
Colton McKivitz, OL, West Virginia
John Molchon, OL, Boise State
Kyle Murphy, OL, Rhode Island
Netane Muti, OL, Fresno State
Lucas Niang, OL, TCU
Mike Onwenu, OL, Michigan
Matt Peart, OL, Connecticut
Tyre Phillips, OL, Mississippi State
Danny Pinter, OL, Ball State
Cesar Ruiz, OL, Michigan
Jon Runyan, OL, Michigan
John Simpson, OL, Clemson
Terence Steele, OL, Texas Tech
Logan Stenberg, OL, Kentucky
Simon Stepaniak, OL, Indiana
Alex Taylor, OL, South Carolina State
Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia
Calvin Throckmorton, OL, Oregon
Prince Tega Wanogho, OL, Auburn
Darryl Williams, OL, Mississippi State
Jedrick Wills, OL, Alabama
Isaiah Wilson, OL, Georgia
Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa

McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas
Bradlee Anae, DL, Utah
Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Josiah Coatney, DL, Mississippi
Kendall Coleman, DL, Syracuse
Darrion Daniels, DL, Nebraska
Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
Carlos Davis, DL, Nebraska
Khalil Davis, DL, Nebraska
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
Jonathan Garvin, DL, Miami
Trevis Gipson, DL, Tulsa
Jonathan Greenard, DL, Florida
Yetur Gross-Matos, DL, Penn State
DaVon Hamilton, DL, Ohio State
LaDarius Hamilton, DL, North Texas
Alex Highsmith, DL, UNC-Charlotte
Trevon Hill, DL, Miami
Benito Jones, DL, Mississippi
Khalid Kareem, DL, Notre Dame
Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Rashard Lawrence II, DL, LSU
James Lynch, DL, Baylor
Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M
Larrell Murchison, DL, North Carolina State
Julian Okwara, DL, Notre Dame
John Penisini, DL, Utah
Chauncey Rivers, DL, Mississippi State
Malcolm Roach, DL, Texas
Alton Robinson, DL, Syracuse
Qaadir Sheppard, DL, Mississippi
James Smith-Williams, DL, North Carolina State
Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC
Derrek Tuszka, DL, North Dakota State
Broderick Washington, DL, Texas Tech
Kenny Willekes, DL, Michigan State
Raequan Williams, DL, Michigan State
Rob Windsor, DL, Penn State
D.J. Wonnum, DL, South Carolina
Chase Young, DL, Ohio State
Jabari Zuniga, DL, Florida

Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State
Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Francis Bernard, LB, Utah
Daniel Bituli, LB, Tennessee
Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple
Jordan Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
Cameron Brown, LB, Penn State
K’Lavon Chaisson, LB, LSU
Nick Coe, LB, Auburn
Carter Coughlin, LB, Minnesota
Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
Michael Divinity, LB, LSU
Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
Tipa Galeai, LB, Utah State
Cale Garrett, LB, Missouri
Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
Scoota Harris, LB, Arkansas
Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
Khaleke Hudson, LB, Michigan
Anfernee Jennings, LB, Alabama
Clay Johnston, LB, Baylor
Azur Kamara, LB, Kansas
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Jordan Mack, LB, Virginia
Kamal Martin, LB, Minnesota
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Dante Olson, LB, Montana
Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
Michael Pinckney, LB, Miami
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Chapelle Russell, LB, Temple
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest
Darrell Taylor, LB, Tennessee
Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado
Casey Toohill, LB, Stanford
Josh Uche, LB, Michigan
Mykal Walker, LB, Fresno State
Curtis Weaver, LB, Boise State
Evan Weaver, LB, California
Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
David Woodward, LB, Utah State

Damon Arnette, DB, Ohio State
Grayland Arnold, DB, Baylor
Trajan Bandy, DB, Miami
Essang Bassey, DB, Wake Forest
Julian Blackmon, DB, Utah
Antoine Brooks Jr., DB, Maryland
Myles Bryant, DB, Washington
Terrell Burgess, DB, Utah
Shyheim Carter, DB, Alabama
Jeremy Chinn, DB, Southern Illinois
Nevelle Clarke, DB, Central Florida
Rodney Clemons, DB, SMU
Brian Cole II, DB, Mississippi State
Kamren Curl, DB, Arkansas
Cameron Dantzler, DB, Mississippi State
Ashtyn Davis, DB, California
Javaris Davis, DB, Auburn
Grant Delpit, DB, LSU
Trevon Diggs, DB, Alabama
Kyle Dugger, DB, Lenoir-Rhyne
Jalen Elliott, DB, Notre Dame
Jordan Fuller, DB, Ohio State
Kristian Fulton, DB, LSU
Alohi Gilman, DB, Notre Dame
Jeff Gladney, DB, TCU
A.J. Green, DB, Oklahoma State
Javelin K. Guidry, DB, Utah
Bryce Hall, DB, Virginia
Harrison Hand, DB, Temple
Jaylinn Hawkins, DB, California
C.J. Henderson, DB, Florida
Lavert Hill, DB, Michigan
Darnay Holmes, DB, UCLA
Noah Igbinoghene, DB, Auburn
Dane Jackson, DB, Pittsburgh
Lamar Jackson, DB, Nebraska
Jaylon Johnson, DB, Utah
Brandon Jones, DB, Texas
BoPete Keyes, DB, Tulane
Xavier McKinney, DB, Alabama
Josh Metellus, DB, Michigan
Chris Miller, DB, Baylor
Tanner Muse, DB, Clemson
Michael Ojemudia, DB, Iowa
Jeff Okudah, DB, Ohio State
James Pierre, DB, Florida Atlantic
Troy Pride, DB, Notre Dame
J.R. Reed, DB, Georgia
John Reid, DB, Penn State
Amik Robertson, DB, Louisiana Tech
Reggie Robinson II, DB, Tulsa
Stanford Samuels, DB, Florida State
Josiah Scott, DB, Michigan State
L’Jarius Sneed, DB, Louisiana Tech
Geno Stone, DB, Iowa
A.J. Terrell, DB, Clemson
Daniel Thomas, DB, Auburn
Stantley Thomas-Oliver, DB, Florida International
Kindle Vildor, DB, Georgia Southern
K’Von Wallace, DB, Clemson
Antoine Winfield Jr., DB, Minnesota

Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern
Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia
Joseph Charlton, P, South Carolina
Blake Ferguson, LS, LSU
Sterling Hofrichter, P, Syracuse
Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M
JJ Molson, K, UCLA
Alex Pechin, P, Bucknell
Arryn Siposs, P, Auburn
Tommy Townsend, P, Florida
Michael Turk, P, Arizona State
Steven Wirtel, LS, Iowa State

Who’s next for the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

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Some big names become eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the next few years.

Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson are among those eligible for the first time next year. DeMarcus Ware is the most qualified for the Class of 2022.

Here is the list of first-year eligible candidates for the Hall of Fame as compiled by Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network:

CLASS OF 2021

DE Jared Allen

RB Steven Jackson

WR Calvin Johnson

OL Logan Mankins

QB Peyton Manning

LB Jerod Mayo

TE Heath Miller

CB Charles Tillman

DL Justin Tuck

QB Michael Vick

WR Wes Welker

DT Kevin Williams

DB Charles Woodson

CLASS OF 2022

WR Anquan Boldin

LB Chad Greenway

WR Andre Johnson

DE/LB Mario Williams

QB Tony Romo

DE Robert Mathis

WR Steve Smith

LB DeMarcus Ware

DT Vince Wilfork

CLASS OF 2023

LB Navorro Bowman

S Kam Chancellor

CB Antonio Cromartie

DE/LB Elvis Dumervil

DE/LB Dwight Freeney

LB James Harrison

CB/KR Devin Hester

P Shane Lechler

C Nick Mangold

RB DeMarco Murray

QB Carson Palmer

CB Darrelle Revis

OT Joe Thomas

CLASS OF 2024

TE Antonio Gates

RB Jamaal Charles

TE Rob Gronkowski

DE Chris Long

QB Andrew Luck

PK Sebastian Janikowski

WR Jordy Nelson

DT Haloti Ngata

DE Julius Peppers

RB Jonathan Stewart

C Max Unger

DT Kyle Williams

CLASS OF 2025

LB Lorenzo Alexander

TE Vernon Davis

LB Luke Kuechly

QB Eli Manning

RB Darren Sproles

FMIA Super Bowl LIV: How the Chiefs ‘Put the Stinger’ in the 49ers and The Backstory on 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp

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A third straight come-from-behind win gave the Chiefs the franchise’s second Super Bowl, so Peter King opens his Football Morning in America column with a look at the play that kicked off the comeback against the 49ers. Also in the column:

• The backstory of 2-3 Jet Chip Wasp—the long 3rd-and-15 completion to Tyreek Hill—and how Patrick Mahomes helped call the tide-turning play.

• Andy Reid, on finally being a champion and why a post-game Uber ride instead of the team bus would have been just fine with him.

• The Super Bowl LIV awards, including a player on the 49ers being perhaps the best player on the field in Miami.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting, including a look at one voter’s ballot, the players who got in, the players who got left out and who might be in good position for 2021.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, a travel note, beernerdness and the unreal story of a Vietnam War prisoner and his life as a Chiefs fan. [more]

PFT’s Super Bowl picks

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The time almost has come to play Super Bowl LIV. The time definitely has come to quit procrastinating on picking a potential winner of the game.

MDS and I have made our selections, and we surprisingly agree on this one. For our reasoning and our selections, keep on reading.

MDS’s take: When I picture how this game plays out, the first thing that comes to my mind is that Patrick Mahomes meets perhaps the best defense he’s ever played against, in the biggest game of his career, and comes out on top.

The 49ers will, of course, bring some pressure on Mahomes and make it hard on him to find open receivers, but I think he’ll rise to the occasion. With Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins able to stretch the field, I think Mahomes is going to hit several deep balls. If he has time to pass, he’s going to make the 49ers’ defense pay.

How can the 49ers stay in it? I think they’ll move the ball fairly effectively against a Chiefs run defense that was suspect in the regular season but has played well in the postseason. And I think Jimmy Garoppolo will be efficient, if not spectacular the way Mahomes will be. The 49ers’ offense will put points on the board.

But in the end, I think it comes down to Mahomes. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, he’ll deliver.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 34, 49ers 31.

Florio’s take: As the 49ers were dismantling the Packers in the NFC Championship, a game I was convinced Green Bay would win, I became convinced that the 49ers would also dismantle the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. In the six quarters since coach Kyle Shanahan flipped the switch from passing to running, the 49ers’ offense has become unstoppable. And even though the Chiefs stopped Titans running back Derrick Henry, the San Francisco running game is more diverse and sudden and explosive.

As time passed, and as I took a closer look at things that a healthy Patrick Mahomes can do, the pendulum began to swing the other way. Hobbled through much of the season due to an ankle injury suffered in Week One and a dislocated kneecap sustained on a Thursday night in Denver, Mahomes had become second fiddle to Ravens phenom Lamar Jackson. By December, however, Mahomes was back and literally better than ever — conjuring images of 2018 and in plenty of respects taking his game to a higher level.

So here’s the question: Can Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and company get to Mahomes before Mahomes spots one of his various receivers wide-ass open in the San Fran secondary? Given that Mahomes never stops moving (making it much harder to track him down than a guy who settles into the pocket), I’m betting that Mahomes will be as elusive against the 49ers as he has been against pretty much every team (when healthy), and that the 49ers won’t be able to keep him from gaining yards and scoring points.

Which could make the game turn on whether the Chiefs can slow down the 49ers’ offense just enough to outscore the NFC champs. Based on what Kansas City did to Henry, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Steve Spagnuolo and company to come up with something to slow down the 49ers just enough to allow Mahomes and company to emerge with a win.

The score I’ve picked represents a certain amount of wishful thinking. These teams seem to be so evenly matched that it’s possible, with a lucky (or unlucky) break or two early in the game, that things could get out of hand, with the Chiefs far better suited to come from behind than the 49ers, who could be cooked if they fall behind by 10 and who could see things snowball out of control.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t get to that point. Here’s hoping that the game stays close and exciting and utimately gives us an outcome that will provide a fitting end to the NFL’s 100th season.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, 49ers 27.

FMIA—3 A.M. Wakeup Call with Andy Reid: Talking Meatballs, Mahomes and Trying To Rip Out Hearts in Miami

Peter King/NBC Sports

A sobering day in sports, so Peter King opens his Football Morning in America column with an NFL-related anecdote about the late Kobe Bryant before turning attention to Miami and Super Bowl LIV. Also in the column:

• A 3 a.m. ride to work with Andy Reid, where the Chiefs coach talks about serving meatballs to Hollywood’s elite, the Michael Vick chapter in Philadelphia and how K.C. employed a CIA strategy to land Patrick Mahomes.

• The San Francisco storylines in LIV, from the Jimmy Garoppolo factor to the under-the-radar secret to the Niners’ recent success in the run game.

• A look at Kyle Shanahan, the son of a coach and the man who will lead San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the retirement of Dean Pees; the Hall of Fame chances of Eli Manning; Tom Brady on Troy Polamalu.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, numbers game, beernerdness and an invite to join me and Gardner Minshew in Miami for a couple cold ones. [more]

NFL announces 115 players giving up college eligibility to enter draft

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The deadline for players to give up their remaining collegiate eligibility in order to enter the 2020 NFL Draft was last Friday and the league announced the names of all the players who have opted to go that route on Tuesday.

Sixteen players who earned degrees without exhausting their eligibility have opted to enter the professional ranks and 99 other underclassmen have declared for the draft. The total of 115 players is down from the record-high of 135 players in 2018.

The players who have graduated are:

Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona St.
Oluwole Betiku, DE, Illinois
Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU
Quartney Davis, WR, Texans A&M
Alohi Gilman, S, Notre Dame
Matt Hennessy, C, Temple
Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA
Keith Ismael, C, San Diego St.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Tony Jones, RB, Notre Dame
Terrell Lewis, edge rusher, Alabama
Jordan Love, QB, Utah St.
Elorm Lumor, DE, Rutgers
Houston Miller, DE, Texas Tech
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

The 99 players who are leaving school without getting their degrees are:
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
Grayland Arnold, CB, Baylor
Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA
Trajan Bandy, CB, Miami
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky
Marcus Brown, DE, Missouri Western
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
K’Lavon Chaisson, edge rusher, LSU
Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise St.
Nick Coe, edge rusher, Auburn
Trystan Colon-Castillo, OT, Missouri
Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
Kamren Curl, S, Arkansas
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami
Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi St.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Central Florida
Kyle Davis, WR, Florida Atlantic
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri
A.J. Epenesa, edge rusher, Iowa
Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Jonathan Garvin, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Willie Gay, LB, Mississippi St.
Yetur Gross-Matos, edge rusher, Penn St.
Peter Guerriero, RB, Monmouth
Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah
K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn St.
Harrison Hand, CB, Temple
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon St.
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Trishton Jackson, WR, Syracuse
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech
Solomon Kindley, OG, Georgia
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Javon Leake, RB, Maryland
James Lynch, DT, Baylor
James Lynch, DL, Baylor
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
Netane Muti, OG, Fresno State
Thomas Newman, DB, Virginia-Lynchburg
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
James Pierre, CB, Florida Atlantic
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Debione Renfro, CB, Texas A&M
Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
Kenny Robinson, DB, West Virginia
Kendrick Rogers, WR, Texas A&M
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Cesar Ruiz, center, WR, Michigan
Darnell Salomon, WR, South Florida
Stanford Samuels III, CB Florida State
Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan St.
Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Arryn Siposs, P, Auburn
Geno Stone, S, Iowa
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Tabyus Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami
Michael Turk, P, Arizona St.
Michael Warren II, RB, Cincinnati
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss
Curtis Weaver, edge rusher, Boise St.
Cody White, WR, Michigan St.
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
David Woodward, LB, Utah St.
Chase Young, edge rusher, Ohio State
Toren Young, RB, Iowa

FMIA: Patrick Mahomes Is ‘The Whole Package,’ Running Chiefs Into Super Bowl LIV To Meet 49ers

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Super Bowl LIV is set. Peter King opens Football Morning in America in Kansas City, where “the complete package” Patrick Mahomes ran the Chiefs past the Titans, setting up a championship matchup against the 49ers. Also in the column:

• Mahomes recaps his second-quarter, tightrope, tip-toe touchdown that broke the spirit of Tennessee and ended the five-decade Super Bowl appearance drought in Kansas City.

• Raheem Mostert, motivated by numerous teams cutting him, ran the 49ers past the Packers and into Miami.

• The uniter-in-chief, Steve Gleason, and the day in D.C. where cats and dogs lived together and a hero was given his just due.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the retirement of Luke Kuechly; the absurdity of a 17-game schedule; the disappointment of the Hall of Fame class; the latest chapter in the Antonio Brown.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness, a travel note and an interesting potential landing spot for Tua Tagovailoa. [more]

Dungy: It’s Time for the Rooney Rule to Evolve

Tony Dungy
NBC Sports

[Editor’s Note: Tony Dungy is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. He has served as an analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America since 2009.]

January is always an exciting time in the NFL. The playoffs are coming to a conclusion as the league moves toward crowning its Super Bowl champion. The playoff games remind us of the goal that all 32 teams have of chasing excellence and trying to be the best. This January, however, my excitement has been tempered by the conversations I’ve had with so many of my friends in the NFL—African-American men who have spent much of their adult lives serving the league and helping create that excellence. For many African-American coaches, this January in particular has fostered disappointment, frustration and hurt. That has come as the result of another hiring cycle in which African-American coaches have been left out.

It’s fitting that we are having these conversations now, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because Dr. King spent his life addressing problems of inequality and injustice in society. In his iconic “l Have a Dream” speech in 1963 he spoke of seeing a day where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. When Dr. King delivered that speech, the NFL playing field had been integrated for more than 15 years but it was far from equal.  There were certain positions, such as quarterback, where there were no African-Americans playing. And there were no African-American coaches on the sidelines.

In the years since 1963 the NFL has made significant strides with diversity and inclusion on the field. Today the percentage of African-Americans who make up the rosters is nearing 70. In the last two years we’ve watched Patrick Mahomes and (presumably) Lamar Jackson win league MVP awards while playing quarterback. They’ve brought a fresh excitement to the game and seemingly have put an end to the question of whether blacks can flourish at the quarterback position in the NFL. So we have seen a lot of progress take place on the field.

However, with head coaches and General Managers it has been different. There were five head coaching changes made after this past season and while Ron Rivera was hired in Washington, none of the five openings were filled by an African-American. Over the last three hiring cycles 20 new coaches were named with only two African-Americans chosen. That 10 percent hiring rate goes right along with the overall percentage of African-American head coaches in the NFL currently—3 out of 32. I’m not arguing for quotas or percentages but I don’t think anyone would say that an industry with a 70 percent black workforce but only 10 percent black leadership, is an industry that is providing fair and equal opportunities for everyone. Do we think that African-Americans are talented and driven enough to play the sport but not talented and driven enough to lead and teach the sport? I don’t think that’s the case.

These numbers over the last three hiring cycles are even more disappointing to me because there was a time when coaching diversity seemed to be gaining momentum. From 2001 to 2009 I had five African-American coaches on my staff alone who went on to become NFL head coaches—Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, and Leslie Frazier.  All five of them would end up leading their teams to the playoffs and three of them took teams to the Super Bowl. I would have never dreamed that a decade later we would be trying to figure out why the numbers have dropped so sharply.

In 2003 Dan Rooney, then owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was part of a committee formed by the NFL, to look at how they could help foster diversity in the area of head coach hiring. They came up with a recommendation that came to be known as the Rooney Rule, which mandated that teams looking for a head coach must interview at least one minority candidate. The intent of the rule was to get teams to slow down their process, investigate more candidates, and thoroughly gather information on potential coaches. Dan felt that would help uncover some minority candidates who might not be as well known to the owners.  In fact, it is exactly the procedure Dan used to hire Mike Tomlin, the current coach of the Steelers.

Dan had a very specific blueprint he used when hiring head coaches. He looked for energetic defensive coaches who were great communicators because he felt that fit the character of the city and the team. That formula led him to Chuck Noll in 1969 and Bill Cowher in 1992. In 2007 he was looking for that type of coach and he wanted to make sure he didn’t leave any stone unturned. In researching the coaching landscape he was eventually led to a 34-year-old coach who had just been named to his first Defensive Coordinator position a year earlier. Mike Tomlin may not have fit the mold other people were looking for but for Dan’s blueprint, Tomlin was perfect.  The hiring of a relatively unknown young coach raised some eyebrows at the time but 133 victories and two Super Bowl appearances later, it looks to have been a pretty good choice.

January of 2007 brought Tomlin’s hiring and also led up to Super Bowl XLI where the Indianapolis Colts met the Chicago Bears. Not only were both teams led by African-American head coaches but the staffs included four minority coaches who would go on to become NFL head coaches—Ron Rivera and Steve Wilks on Lovie Smith’s Bears’ staff and Jim Caldwell and Leslie Frazier on my Colts’ staff.  The Rooney Rule appeared to be having an impact, helping to bring about an uptick in minority hiring.

Recently, however, the rule has come under fire and many people think it is outdated. With the advent of the Internet, search firms, and the proliferation of analytics in the NFL now, the interview is no longer the primary way owners gather information on candidates. In fact, some hires are made without a formal interview.  I know because I was hired for my last coaching job after a series of phone conversations with Colts owner Jim Irsay. We never sat face to face for a formal interview.

Dan Rooney’s objective in formulating the rule was to promote the gathering of information and to give minority coaches another tool in the process of making themselves known to NFL team decision-makers. The spirit of the Rooney Rule is excellent but the current application of it has fallen short of the desired result. I believe the league office needs to take another look at how it can best help the owners gather information on prospective head coaches and General Managers before the interview process even takes place. We need to get more candidates truly included in the search process, by raising owners’ awareness of them long before an opening presents itself.

I know many people think that all of this discussion about the Rooney Rule and diversity in hiring is unnecessary. They think that since all teams want to win that everyone searches for, and selects, the best candidates possible. They think the problem is on the supply side—that we simply need to do something to create more of a pipeline of minority candidates.

I’m all for looking at ways to help develop coaches but I don’t subscribe to the theory that the problem is solely on the supply side. I think owners need help identifying quality candidates. And I don’t chalk it all up to racism. I don’t believe there are many people in professional football who would intentionally bypass a candidate they thought could take them to the playoffs or to a Super Bowl simply because of their race. However, I do believe there are owners who don’t know all of the best candidates or how to find them.  I truly believe there are more Lovie Smiths, Jim Caldwells, and Mike Tomlins in our coaching ranks today. We just need a better mechanism to discover them, a new application of the same spirit Dan Rooney employed back in 2007. It will take some work and require people to dig and look outside our traditional boxes, but the payoff can be huge. We can make our great game even better by utilizing all of the talent and resources that we have available.

PFT’s championship game picks

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The postseason is rocketing toward a crescendo, and MDS enjoys a one-game lead with three to play because someone (i.e., me) foolishly believed the Vikings would beat the 49ers — and failed to surrender to the gut feeling that the Titans would beat the Ravens.

This week, we disagree on one game. Which gives me a chance to forge a tie heading into the Super Bowl.

For our picks, keep reading.

Titans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Titans have a path to victory in this game, and it’s similar to their path to victory in the regular season: An efficient day for Ryan Tannehill, a lot of yards for Derrick Henry, and some special teams breaks going their way. But I don’t see that as the most likely path. More likely, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense proves it just has too much firepower for the Titans to stop, and Tennessee’s run-first game plan proves not to put enough points on the board. Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 30, Titans 17.

Florio’s take: The Titans narrowly beat the Chiefs in Week 10, but Tennessee should have been blown out. In his first game back from a knee injury, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was slower than he is now, which made him less dynamic as a thrower. He still generated more than 400 passing yards, and he’ll likely do it again. Will the Chiefs be able to stop Derrick Henry? If they can build enough of a lead, yes, because the Titans will have to abandon the run, at some point.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 34, Titans 24.


Packers at 49ers

MDS’s take: This game wasn’t close in the regular season, and I don’t think it’s going to be close in the postseason, either. The 49ers’ defense is going to shut down Aaron Rodgers, and although Aaron Jones will have a decent game on the ground, that won’t be enough. The 49ers will take an early lead, their defense will protect it, and the running game will grind out the clock in the fourth quarter as San Francisco gets back to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Packers 13.

Florio’s take: The 37-8 victory in Week 12 becomes a ball and chain for the 49ers this time around. Despite the margin, the game turned sharply against the Packers during a first half that featured dumb penalties, a very untimely fumble, a misguided decision to run from shotgun formation on fourth and one while down by only 10 points, and horrendous clock management near the end of the second quarter. If it’s a lot closer than 23-0 when the third quarter starts on Sunday, the Packers will have a very real chance to win — especially since Aaron Rodgers is keenly aware of his football mortality and Jimmy Garoppolo has the potential to make a critical mistake in crunch time. If the Packers can weather the early storm, they can steal a Super Bowl appearance late, setting up  rematch of what was called at the time the AFL-NFL World Championship Game to cap the NFL’s 100th season.

Florio’s pick: Packers 24, 49ers 21.

FMIA Divisional: Aaron Rodgers, Packers Aren’t Finished, Derrick Henry Can’t Be Stopped, and more

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And then there were four. Peter King opens “Football Morning in America, Divisional Weekend” in Green Bay where the Packers joined the Niners, Titans and Chiefs as the championship weekend guests of honor. Also in the column:

• Aaron Rodgers, 36 years old, still has the deft touch, and has Green Bay one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.

• Derrick Henry might not care about stats, but the numbers he’s putting up have never been seen before.

• Tyrann Mathieu tries to make sense of the Chiefs’ really weird win over the Texans.

• A quick look at all the two Championship Sunday games—Tennessee at Kansas City, and Green Bay at San Francisco.

• A tick-tock through the 40 hours that changed the futures of the Panthers and Giants, and the lives of Matt Rhule and Joe Judge, including the importance of knowing which Penn Station is the right one.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Rooney Rule mess, and how to fix it; the importance of process in Carolina; the Rhule contract; the Kevin Stefanski hire.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, beernerdness, a travel note and a wild thought on Andy Dalton becoming a Patriot in 2020. [more]

PFT’s divisional round picks

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Last week, MDS and I went 2-2 in the wild-card round, properly believing in the Texans and Seahawks but blowing it as to the Patriots and Saints.

This week, we agree on three of the four picks, with one of us having the guts to call for an upset.

Our picks for the best NFL weekend of the season appear below.

Vikings at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Vikings put on an impressive performance in New Orleans, winning a game that few thought they could. The 49ers, however, have been the best team in the NFC all season, and there’s little reason to believe that will change in the playoffs. Look for George Kittle to have a big game for San Francisco and the 49ers’ defense to shut down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ passing game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take: Thirty-two years ago, Anthony Carter and the Vikings shocked the 49ers in San Francisco, six days after shocking the Saints in New Orleans. One year earlier, the Vikings stole a regular-season game in San Francisco with a 27-24 overtime win. Earlier this year, the 49ers lost their first game of the year, 27-24 in overtime. So what the hell? Lightning strikes all over again for the Vikings, who are good enough to keep it close and if they can keep it close anything can happen.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, 49ers 24 (OT).


Titans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Titans will likely prioritize the running game and try to control the ball with Derrick Henry, but I just can’t see them slowing the game down the way they did against the Patriots. The Ravens’ offense is just too good, and the Titans’ defense won’t be able to stop it.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 30, Titans 20.

Florio’s take: The Titans are good enough to win this one. Much of it hinges on the ability of the offense to shorten the game and to keep the Ravens offense on the sideline. That will work, but not well enough to return the favor from 2008, when the top-seeded Titans fell at home to the Ravens.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Titans 13.


Texans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Texans went to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs in the regular season, so it’s certainly not out of the question that they could pull the upset. But top to bottom I think the Chiefs are a significantly better team, on offense, defense and special teams. I like the Chiefs to win this one and I don’t see it being particularly close.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Texans 20.

Florio’s take: For some reason, the Chiefs have faded from the collective national radar screen. They shouldn’t have. The offense is potent and the defense is improved. The Texans just don’t have the horses to keep up with the only team left in the postseason that made it this far last year.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 20.


Seahawks at Packers

MDS’s take: The Packers caught a break when the Saints got upset by the Vikings. I believe the Saints match up very well against the Packers and would have won in Green Bay. The Seahawks, however, have a weak run defense that will allow Aaron Jones to have a big game, and the Packers will win this one and head to the NFC Championship Game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 20, Seahawks 17.

Florio’s take: A Vikings win on Saturday will give the Packers a psychological boost, since they won’t have to return to San Francisco. This makes the Packers more likely to win, setting up the first ever Vikings-Packers border war with a berth in the Super Bowl riding on the outcome. (If the 49ers win Saturday, the Seahawks become more likely to prevail.)

Florio’s pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 21.