Patrick Mahomes may have wrapped up MVP after incredible win vs Ravens

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The more I watch Patrick Mahomes, the more I find myself saying, as I did Sunday night: Relax now. Fourteen starts. That’s all he’s done. Fourteen games.

Mostly, I’m okay doing that, okay with respecting the process. No quarterback is great after 14 games. But then I listen to what Andy Reid says about him, and then I watch fourth-and-nine with the undisputed lead of the AFC West on the line, and I think maybe it’s okay to speed up on the road to greatness for the kid. Because Mahomes was Favre-in-his-prime spectacular Sunday at Arrowhead in the 27-24 win over Baltimore. This kid can throw from every angle with accuracy—over the top, three-quarter, pure sidearm, and even no-look jobs. He’s got some Omar Vizquel in him. Fitting that, last month, when I talked to his dad, former big-league pitcher Pat Mahomes, he told me these weird and accurate throws are the same types younger Patrick would make playing shortstop as a Texas teen.

That play first. The fourth-and-nine play, down 24-17, with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter at the KC 40-yard line. I’ve seen it 25 times by now. I can recite it by heart. Mahomes, flushed from the pocket back around his 30-yard line, chased by Za’Darius Smith and Brandon Williams of the Ravens, now running laterally toward the right sideline at the 28. In a dead sprint, actually. Smith, surprisingly fast for 275 pounds. Mahomes, at the 30 yard-marker on the field, veered slightly upfield as he wound up to throw on the run, to throw somewhere. “His eyes connected with my eyes,” Hill told me afterward. “In that situation, you’re just thinking, ‘Stay alive, stay alive! Let him see you.’ “

Crazy thing was, 39 yards downfield, and just approaching the left hashmark running a crosser to get within range, Hill had two Ravens on him. And Hill was a wounded animal. “My foot’s bad,” he’d say after the game.

Mahomes pulled the ball way back. As Smith’s hands were inches from beginning a hard shove of Mahomes out of bounds, Mahomes flung the ball with a strong flick to a target about 39 yards downfield and another 30 yards to his sharp left, past the center of the field, aiming for a spot right near the left hash.

“I knew he had a chance,” Mahomes said of Hill. “I always say he’d be the best center fielder of all time from the way he tracks the ball.”

Splat! Down went Mahomes, hard, at his own 37-yard line near the right boundary. Desperation heave. The ball was coming down just inside the left hash at the Baltimore 27-yard line. Linebacker C.J. Mosley dove at Hill as the ball hit his hands. But Hill, even with the bum foot, was too quick for Mosley and the trailing corner, Jimmy Smith. Hill skittered toward the right sideline and went out of bounds, limping on the bum wheel, at the 12-yard line.

Gain of 48.

“Our people did a tremendous job wrapping my foot,” Hill said. “I was still feeling my heel, but at the same time, I knew that man, if you want the W, if you want to be a great receiver, this is your moment to make plays.”

Felt like a formality after that. Chiefs tied it on a short TD strike by Mahomes with 53 seconds left, then won it in overtime on a Harrison Butker field goal.

There were other ridiculous throws from the shortstop. The no-look throw across his body to the left, to wideout Demarcus Robinson for 17 yards late in the first half, elicited this from the CBS broadcast team:

Tony Romo: “It’s almost a no-look! That’s incredible!”
Jim Nantz: “No-look sidearm!”
Romo:“Watching him … [giddy Romo voice] How do you not like watching him play!”

Just then, on the next snap, Mahomes evaded three Ravens and spied Kareem Hunt-replacement Spencer Ware gamboling up the left sideline. Mahomes pushed a sidearm laser into a small gap, right into Ware’s hands. Gain of 31.

“The things he does, it’s hard to practice that,” said Mosley.

Last month, I spent time with Reid after a win over Arizona. We went back to the Favre days, when he was the gunslinger’s quarterback coach for a time in Green Bay. History’s repeating. “I was lucky enough to coach Brett Favre, who was able to throw from every angle possible. I’ve seen it done before. But [now I] just go, ‘Whoa,’ a lot during the game, as you did. You just have to remind yourself that it’s a football in his hand because he does it so easy with grace.

“Certain guys just know where everybody is on the field. And he has that. He can just go on a play, and he sees. They talk about Ted Williams and that feel. He’s got that … He can see everything, feel everything.”

You got the feeling Sunday that this win meant a little more to the Chiefs. On one snap, Mahomes saw 11 Ravens within three yards of the line. Cover zero and then some. Who does that? Who says, We’re going to blitz the tar out of you. Complete it downfield if you have time—and you won’t. Baltimore did. On one of those plays, Mahomes just folded himself into a spot just behind the line, surrendering. But not for long.

This game will be terrific for Mahomes, because he had to play in a very uncomfortable situation. Seems like he loved it, because it forced him to learn. Other teams—starting with the 10-3 Chargers on Thursday night at Arrowhead—will go to school on what made Mahomes uncomfortable. Mahomes knows. It’s part of the chess games.

“These are the best wins,” Mahomes said. “These are the wins that satisfy you the most.”

They get bigger as it gets colder, kid.

MORE: Read Peter King’s full Football Morning Morning in America column by clicking here

Cris Collinsworth, Pro Football Focus writers explain how analytics are changing the NFL

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Peter King is on vacation until July 15, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s a collaborative effort by Pro Football Focus, the popular football analytics website. To start, here’s PFF Majority Owner and NBC’s Sunday Night Football color analyst Cris Collinsworth.

How data is impacting the landscape of football

When I broadcast my first NFL game during the 1989 season, I had absolutely no idea what to study or how to study. NBC provided me with a handful of newspaper articles, we watched some film at the team facility on Friday before the game, and we interviewed some players and coaches. I took notes, but I didn’t even have a board with the players’ names and numbers on it.

I was thrown into the deep end of the pool. This was going to be the shortest broadcasting career ever. Luckily, I had David Michaels as my producer (yes, Al Michaels’ brother). David had worked for years with Terry Bradshaw, and Terry had created these boards for calling games. The positions were aligned on this board where they would line up on the field. Offense facing defense, back-ups behind starters. All I had to do was fill in the blanks. Once again, my friend Terry was ahead of his time, and David showed me how to use it.

When I think back to those days, it’s pretty comical. Today, I could never read, watch or study all the data that I have available to me. In 2014, I bought controlling interest in Pro Football Focus. At the time we had 60 employees evaluating every player on every play of the NFL season. Now we have nearly 500 employees, providing data to 90 NFL and NCAA teams, multiple television networks and individuals who use it for private purposes. I won’t get into all the details, but if you are a data scientist, mathematician or IT specialist, and you love football, we are hiring.

PFF has already changed the way I think about building a team and play-calling. I can remember a time when everybody thought Andy Reid was crazy for passing 60% of the time. He doesn’t look so crazy now. I remember when running backs were thought to be the most valuable position; now they are considered the easiest to replace based on our WAR (wins above replacement) metric. I think it is fair to say that now very few NFL contracts are negotiated without PFF data being at the heart of the debate. The agent pitches all the positive data about the player, and the team is loaded with all the not so positive data. Some of those negotiating stories are pretty entertaining.

But as much as the data has changed broadcasting, it has changed the game of football even more. “Gut instincts” are no longer good enough. Decisions must be made based on the data. Every year at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, PFF meets with nearly every team. I always laugh when somebody starts telling me about “old school” coaches in the league. I won’t mention names, but some of the “old school” coaches have recently blown me away with their knowledge of the data.

I sat in on a meeting with a team that had seven data scientists, mathematicians and IT specialists from Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T. all in the room, and they were loaded with questions that would make your head spin. Luckily, I had the people in the room with the answers. Of course, there are teams that are not quite that sophisticated, and it is getting more and more difficult for them to compete. The data arms race is very real, and it is widening the gap between those who engage, and those who don’t.

The fans are now engaged in the data arms race, as well. Fantasy football had always created a market for data, but since May 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that effectively barred state-authorized sports gambling, a new aspect in the arms race has opened to fans. Whether anyone likes it or not, there is no stopping state-sponsored gambling on football and other sports. We have seen a real spike in our consumer sales of our Edge and Elite products. Some fans just want to know more about their team, others want to be the smartest person at the water cooler, some want to dominate their fantasy league, and others still are writing their own gambling algorithms. Regardless, there is no going back now. Data has changed the game.

 

For more PFF writers’ analysis, read more from this week’s Football Morning in America here

Patriots settle as small favorites on Super Bowl odds 2019

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For all the narratives that can hang off the great Tom Brady and Super Bowl first-timer Jared Goff, two of the big moving parts in the matchup on Super Sunday involve the rushing phase.

The New England Patriots have settled as 2.5-point favorites on the Super Bowl odds 2019 against the Los Angeles Rams with a 56.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in the Super Bowl 53 matchup slated for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday.

The Bill Belichick- and Brady-led Patriots are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight games as a favorite of 3.0 or fewer points, according to the OddsShark NFL Database, while the Rams are 4-3 straight-up and ATS in their last seven games as an underdog. Interestingly enough, underdogs are 13-4 ATS in the last 17 Super Bowl games.

As so often happens, the last two teams standings are in good health. The biggest exception for New England, whose run defense has been league-average much of the season, is that defensive tackle Malcom Brown (calf) was limited in practice. The Rams claim leading rusher Todd Gurley (left knee inflammation) is 100 per cent after he had only five touches during the NFC championship game two weeks ago.

Backing the Patriots, who are 13-5 SU and 11-7 ATS on the year, involves putting stock in Brady and cohorts’ abundant Super Bowl experience, along with the fact the offense has been at peak form, averaging 38.7 points and 465.7 yards per game over its last three outings.

The Patriots’ offensive line will arguably be the unofficial playoff MVP, collectively, if it contains the Rams’ front four anchored by Aaron Donald, the best defensive lineman in football. If Brady, the subject of many Super Bowl props for Sunday, isn’t disrupted and/or the opposing pass rush is sucking wind after a ball-control drive, the Patriots passing game is lethal.

The Rams, 15-3 SU and 9-7-2 ATS, are new to the tumult of the Super Bowl. However, head coach Sean McVay thrives at creating mismatches, and two of the Rams’ season-long strengths, running out one-back, one-tight end sets and using play-action passes, are not tactics that New England has defended particularly well.

Goff also led five game-winning drives during the season, emerging victorious in quarterback matchups against stars such as Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson (twice).

The total has gone OVER in seven of the Patriots’ last eight games in the playoffs. New England’s last four closely contested playoff games have featured 68, 74, 44 and 62 points.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.