Previewing NFL’s divisional round playoff games

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I’ve always hated “the divisional round,” as a name for the second weekend of NFL playoffs. Doesn’t come much more boring than that. I christen this weekend the Conference Semis. The most compelling game, from my chair, looks like the first one.

Saturday

Indianapolis (11-6, AFC 6th seed) at Kansas City (12-4, AFC 1st seed), Arrowhead Stadium, 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC.

I don’t recall the last time a respected football voice (Steve Young, in this case) said of a sixth seed: “Nobody wants to play the Colts right now.” But he did, and there’s evidence for that. Indy’s 10-1 since Week 7, and it’s not just The Andrew Luck Story. The Colts’ D suffocated Houston till garbage time, using more secondary blitzes than I’ve seen in a while. Unknown corner/slot corner Kenny Moore blitzed 11 times, per Pro Football Focus, and extra men were swarming around Deshaun Watson all night. The wild-card win is exhibit A of why defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is on the radar of several teams looking for a head coach this month.

With the Chiefs likely to get speed receiver threat Sammy Watkins back from a nagging foot injury that never goes away, that means it’s going to be an interesting race: Can the Colts’ rush get to Patrick Mahomes before he can find an answer in his five-across receiver sets? I can’t wait to see how the Chiefs try to block this Indianapolis front, and whether Andy Reid will just keep his aggressive downfield spread ethos and trust Mahomes to get the ball out quick. This game would be great strategic fun on that alone. Now add in the Luck factor, and coach Frank Reich’s ability to free up a variety of receivers weekly, and the fact that someone named Marlon Mack rushed for 148 yards, most in Indy team history, and the Chiefs have allowed 164 rushing yards a game over the last five games.

This looks nothing like a 6 versus 1 playoff game. This looks like a pretty even ballgame with great storylines.

Dallas (11-6, NFC 4th seed) at Los Angeles Rams (13-3, NFC 2nd seed), L.A. Coliseum, 8:15 p.m. ET, FOX.

Let’s step back for a minute and think how interesting it is that two years ago, the two teams now in southern California, the Rams and Chargers, were a woebegone 9-23, and league owners were rolling their eyes at the possibility of the combo platter of two lousy teams owning this valuable piece of NFL property known as Los Angeles. Now they’re 26-7, and they’re legit members of the NFL’s elite eight. Nothing is forever in the NFL.

Other than Jerry Jones getting to take his entourage to Nobu in Malibu, the best thing for Dallas about this weekend is this matchup. In 2018, the Rams gave up 5.1 yards per rush, which is beyond an Achilles heel. It’s preposterous, and it’s the biggest reason why the Rams could be endangered species when Ezekiel Elliott rolls into the Coliseum on Saturday evening. Elsewhere in this column I write about how impressive a football player (not just a great back; I mean a complete player) Elliott is. And the more the Cowboys are able to ride Elliott, the less of a factor Aaron Donald will be in making Dak Prescott’s life miserable.

The tale of two backs in this game—which will be the ratings bonanza of the postseason—has one big mystery: How healthy is Todd Gurley, and how productive can he be? Gurley hasn’t been himself since he saved the Rams with a 155-yard performance (rushing and receiving) at Detroit, and regardless whether he practices this week or is listed on the injury report, I won’t trust him till I see if he can dominate a game the way he did in the first half of this season. This game’s going to be closer than it looks.

Sunday

Los Angeles Chargers (13-4, AFC 5th seed) at New England (11-5, AFC 2nd seed), Gillette Stadium, 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS.

For the NFL-record 10th straight year, the Patriots open the AFC playoffs at home. New England’s edges entering this game: 13 days between games … Rob Gronkowski can always use the rest … Bill Belichick is pretty smart, and smarter when he’s got two weeks to prepare … The Chargers could be weary, with L.A.-to-Baltimore, Baltimore-to-L.A, and Baltimore-to-Providence flights, 17 hours in the air in all, in a nine-day span prior to the game.

Now to the football: The Chargers have multiple pass-rush threats that bedeviled a mobile quarterback, Lamar Jackson, in a seven-sack whipping of the Ravens. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are the major threats, but Justin Jones and Isaac Rochell are big and quick too, and they both got to Jackson in Baltimore. So it’s a big, athletic defense that will be the challenge for Tom Brady, with the Chargers’ weakness their injuries at linebacker. This is not a game the Chargers will want to play seven defensive backs. New England’s strength will be the ability to play an unpredictable offensive game, as coordinator Josh McDaniels has designed run-heavy, swing-pass-heavy, pass-heavy, and Gronk-light plans during the course of a malleable season—so the Chargers won’t have much of an idea what they’ll see until a little after 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Chargers won’t be cowed by much of anything. They’ve won in four times zones this year, including Greenwich Mean Time. That’s London. “We love the road,” Derwin James told me. “Maybe a lot of teams don’t, but we’re young, we’re all good with each other, and we love spending time together. The road’s good for that.” Well, whatever works. The Chargers are 8-0 outside of Los Angeles this year. Then again, New England is 8-0 at Gillette this year. Something’s got to give.

Philadelphia (10-7, NFC 6th seed) at New Orleans (13-3, NFC 1st seed), Superdome, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX.

I was in New Orleans the weekend the Saints hosted the Eagles in November. “Hosted” is a collegial, misleading word. “Pillaged” would be better. Saints’ best six drives that afternoon in the Dome, against a team that looked dead for the year: 57, 86, 89, 89, 70, 87. Eagles’ best six drives: 75, 31, 19, 17, 16, 14. This was as brutal a mismatch as either team had all season … and now the Eagles travel to New Orleans again.

So why should it be different? Maybe it won’t be. Except for Miracle Nick Foles replacing Carson Wentz, there’s not much different about the Eagles eight weeks later. But the Saints are looking less invincible since then. After putting up 45, 51 and 48 in three straight November weeks, they’ve averaged a quite strange 21 points per game in the last six weeks (including a meaningless Week 17 game). The real Saints need to stand up here, if they’re going to win the second Super Bowl of the Payton/Brees Era. The offensive mortality has to give Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz hope.

On the other side, Foles is 4-0 in playoff games as an Eagle the past two seasons, and there’s something strange and almost eerie about the Eagles when Foles plays. They find a way to win. Fletcher Cox told me the Eagles players “just flushed” that November game—didn’t watch or study it; it got out of control against a secondary ravaged by injury, and Philly just moved on without allowing that game to defeat the players. We’ll see if that approach works.

The one thing you do notice about the Eagles on the defensive side now is they’re not held hostage by awful pass coverage. They’ve allowed 30 points just once since the Saints game. I think this game comes down to Drew Brees finding completions, short and intermediate, and not giving Foles more than eight or nine possession to make his magic.

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How to watch Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TV, live stream info, preview for Sunday Night Football game

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It’s the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, October 2 in a rematch of Super Bowl LV where Tom Brady earned his seventh ring. Sunday’s matchup marks the sixth meeting between Patrick Mahomes and Brady with the 45-year-old veteran holding a 3-2 edge in the series.

RELATED: Tom Brady’s Super Bowl wins, rings, MVPs, losses: Every appearance, NFL stats, records

Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock with Football Night in America. See below for additional information on how to watch the game.

RELATED:Will Tom Brady make playing beyond 40 more common for quarterbacks?

Football Night in America will feature a weekly segment hosted by former NFL quarterback Chris Simms and sports betting and fantasy pioneer Matthew Berry, which highlights storylines and betting odds for the upcoming Sunday Night Football game on NBC, Peacock, and Universo. Real-time betting odds on the scoring ticker during FNIA also will be showcased. Peacock Sunday Night Football Final, an NFL postgame show produced by NBC Sports, will also go deep on the storylines and BetMGM betting lines that proved prominent during the matchup.

RELATED: FMIA Week 3 – Broncos’ Coaching Experiment Pays Off, Dolphins Win ‘Beast’ Game, and What We Learned About the NFL in September

Be sure to start your NFL Sunday with Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Football Pregame show beginning at 11 AM ET on Peacock and the NFL on NBC YouTube channel.

Kansas City Chiefs

Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (2-1) picked up their first loss of the season last Sunday after falling 20-17 to the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kansas City struggled offensively in Week 3 as the team was held to just three points in the second half. The Chiefs are still working to fill the void in the passing game since trading star WR Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins in the offseason but according to Mahomes, that doesn’t excuse Sunday’s loss.

RELATED: Patrick Mahomes –  I don’t expect growing pains, offense has to gel together

“I don’t expect any growing pains,” Mahomes told reporters at ESPN.com. “Obviously have new players and you don’t know everybody’s going to respond to tough situations. . . . We’ve got to gel all together. It starts with me. There were certain throws I was putting on guys’ back hips instead of in front of him. There were certain situations where we were just barely off of it.”

Mahomes, who signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension, in July 2020–the richest contract in American sports history by total value–is in his fifth season as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback and hopes to lead Kansas City to its seventh straight AFC West title. The Chiefs are the only team to ever win six consecutive AFC West titles, which is tied for the 3rd-longest division title streak of any team in NFL history.

RELATED: Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes: All-time QB matchups, records, stats

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady and the Buccaneers (2-1) are also coming off their first loss of the season–a 14-12 defeat at home from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday afternoon. With WRs Mike Evans (suspension) and Chris Godwin (hamstring)–Brady’s top two targets–and Julio Jones (knee) out in Week 3, Tampa Bay’s offense racked up a total of just 285 yards in the loss. Additionally, the team is still adapting to the turnover at the WR and TE positions from this offseason. Despite some challenges on offense, Tampa Bay’s defense has remained consistent and currently leads the NFL in scoring defense (9.0 pts/gm) and also ranks in the top 5 in total defense.

RELATED: NFL QBs with most Super Bowl wins – Where does Tom Brady rank ahead of Super Bowl 2023


How to watch the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
  • When: Sunday, October 2
  • Start Time: 8:20 p.m. ET; live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET with Football Night In America
  • TV Channel: NBC
  • Stream liveWatch live on Peacock or with the NBC Sports App

What time is kickoff for the Kansas City Chiefs vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers game?

Kickoff is at 8:20 p.m. ET.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

For all your NFL jersey and gear needs ahead of the 2022 season, click here!


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


 Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

NFL QBs with most Super Bowl wins: Where does Tom Brady rank ahead of Super Bowl 2023?

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Getting to the Super Bowl is a challenge in itself and winning is another uphill battle. However, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, who already owns a myriad of post season records, made his 10th career Super Bowl appearance in 2021 and extended his record of Super Bowl wins to 7. No other quarterback has appeared in more than 5 Super Bowls, let alone claimed over 4 rings. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw are tied for second with 4. See below for the complete list of quarterbacks with the most Super Bowl wins and additional information on how to watch the big game.

RELATED: Tom Brady’s Super Bowl history: Every appearance, win, MVP,  loss, and Super Bowl stats, records

NFL Quarterbacks with the most Super Bowl wins all-time:

  • Tom Brady – 7

  • Joe Montana – 4

  • Terry Bradshaw – 4

  • Troy Aikman – 3 

  • Eli Manning – 2

  • Peyton Manning – 2

  • Ben Roethlisberger – 2

  • John Elway – 2

  • Jim Plunkett – 2

  • Bob Griese – 2

  • Roger Staubach – 2

  • Bart Starr – 2

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl Wins and Rings:

  • Super Bowl XXXVI (2002) – New England defeated St. Louis, 20-17
  • Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004) – New England defeated Carolina, 32-29
  • Super Bowl XXXIX (2005) – New England defeated Philadelphia, 24-21
  • Super Bowl XLIX (2015) – New England defeated Seattle, 28-24
  • Super Bowl LI (2017) – New England defeated Atlanta, 34-28
  • Super Bowl LIII (2019) – New England defeated Los Angeles, 13-3
  • Super Bowl LV (2021) – Tampa Bay defeated Kansas City, 31-9

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023: Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more