Key players, storylines, coaches — Everything you need to know for the second half of NFL season

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What’s on the line in the second half of the season:

1. The health of Patrick MahomesWith him at 100 percent, the Chiefs could (could, I wrote, not would) have the kind of explosive offense to win in Foxboro and beat back the strong contenders in the NFC in the Super Bowl. With him at 88 percent-ish because of the after-effects of the dislocated kneecap, his quick-twitch movements in and out of the pocket disappear, and the Chiefs would have to be significantly better on defense than they are today to win Super Bowl 54. This is the reason I fully back Any Reid sitting Mahomes on Sunday against Minnesota, though Mahomes was probably healthy enough to play hobbled: As of this morning, only one of KC’s seven foes down the stretch has a record over .500. Get Mahomes to max health, even if it costs the Chiefs the two seed.

2. Why 8-0 San Francisco might not win NFC home-field—and might not get a first-round bye. Five NFC teams have seven or more wins through nine weeks, which is amazing. The Niners are terrific on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense, but it’s possible 7-2 Green Bay and 7-1 New Orleans could pass them for the top two seeds. San Francisco’s second-half schedule is a killer: Seattle twice, the Rams once, and Baltimore and New Orleans on the road.

3. The end of the line for the Brady/Belichick marriage? No one knows for sure. I would not predict—with the Patriots sitting atop the AFC, Tom Brady playing well at 42, and there being no clear successor in-house after the jettisoning of Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 trades—that Brady will retire, or be quarterbacking the Bears or Titans or Broncos or Raiders in 2020. (Lord! Gruden and Brady on the Las Vegas Strip 10 months from now. Only in America.) But when Adam Schefter, as plugged into Belichickland as any reporter ever has been, says Brady leaving the team in 2020 is a real possibility, sit up. Pay attention. To me, Brady getting his contract to void after this season is a sign he would like to choose his fate in 2020, not have it chosen for him. And doesn’t he deserve that after 20 mega-productive years with the Patriots?

4. Whither pass interference? The new pass-interference challenge “rule” has been more of a “laughably rarely enforced suggestion” in the first half of this year. Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron seldom overrules a call on the field (2 of 31 coaches’ challenges between Week 3 and Week 8 were denied, ESPN reported) and seemingly at will. Maybe we’ll all be happy if it saves a horrible call in a playoff game. Maybe. But I don’t see this debacle of a rules change getting 24 of 32 votes next March to continue in the 2020 season.

5. The scramble for the top draft picks(s). As of this morning, the race for the first pick seems to be a five-team race: Cincinnati (0-8), Washington (1-8), Atlanta (1-7), Jets (1-7) and Miami (1-7). As of today, there is no must-have overall first pick. Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young is likely the surest draft thing. Two quarterbacks are likely to go in the top five, at least. The most compelling draft storyline, of course, will be Miami, which also owns the first-round picks of Pittsburgh and Houston. Let’s just guess the Dolphins end up with the second, 10th (from Pittsburgh, for Minkah Fitzpatrick) and 22nd (from Houston, for Laremy Tunsil) picks in round one. Miami also has two firsts and two seconds in 2021. They could be frothing over Young at a major need position, and know they need a quarterback too. No team would be in better position to trade up than Miami. The Dolphins, in this scenario, might be able to trade the 10th overall pick this year plus a first and a second next year to move from 10 to three with a franchise not desperate for a quarterback. Amazing, that would still leave Miami with another first-rounder this year, and picks in the first and second rounds next year. Theoretically, that’s how they could end up with Young and one of the three quarterbacks with soft question marks—Tua Tagovailoa (nagging injuries), Justin Herbert (not an alpha-male leader type), Joe Burrow (one-year wonder).

6. The Hall of Fame’s questionable call on the Hall of Fame class of 2020. This is going to reverberate. Pro Football Talk reported that the Pro Football Hall of Fame has decided its 2020 Centennial Class—a total of 15 players, coaches and contributors—will be enshrined without being voted on by the 48-member Hall of Fame selection committee. In the 56 years of Hall of Fame history, 326 football legends in 56 classes have been enshrined by a vote of the selection committee. But not this year. Fifteen men will enter the Hall through a different gate, likely to be viewed by history with an asterisk. Much more to come on this in 10 Things I Think I Think.

7. The disappearing commissioner. Other than a press availability for a few minutes at the NFL fall meetings in Florida last month, has anyone seen Roger Goodell? Anywhere? Odd, considering this is a year when I thought the league would be celebrating its 100th. That, too, has been mostly invisible. It should not be much of a career change for Goodell when, as most people around the league believe, he walks away into private life after the negotiation of the next CBA (talking now, but not likely done till 2021) and the next TV/streaming rights deal (2022).

8. The fate of the 2015 quarterbacks. The Titans, frustrated that Marcus Mariota never became the decisive playmaker they thought they drafted number two overall in 2015, have planted him on the bench behind another failed starter, Ryan Tannehill. Mariota will likely back up another quarterback in 2020. Maybe Chicago, where his former coach, Mark Helfrich, is offensive coordinator—though the Bears might want a player with a better résumé to challenge Mitchell Trubisky in 2020. In Tampa, Jameis Winston has gone from an 80-percent sure bet for a second contract with the Bucs to who knows. In his last two games prior to Week 9, Winston turned it over 10 times—and he’s lucky it wasn’t 12, because two of his fumbles were not lost. But then he throws for 335 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in nearly upsetting Seattle on the road. So like I said, who knows. Coach Bruce Arians has been fiercely defensive of Winston, but that’s what happens when a coach is trying to save a quarterback whose middle name is Potential. I won’t be surprised, barring an efficient second half of the season, if GM Jason Licht pushes the QB decision down the road and offers Winston a bridge deal of a couple of years.

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Steering clear of quarterbacks, because they’re always going to be high on valuable-player lists, here are the five players most crucial to the playoff chase in the second half:

Aaron Jones, Green Bay running back. What I like about the Packers this year is their malleability, and their ability to adjust while being slammed with injuries at receiver, and to do it all without bitching. Part of that is having Jones, who’s becoming a Le’Veon Bell-sort of versatile back. A fifth-round pick from UTEP in 2017, Jones has morphed into a back coach Matt LaFleur is comfortable splitting out. In the Week 8 win at Kansas City, per Pro Football FocusJones played 15 of 42 snaps at receiver—six in the slot, nine lined up wide. In a brilliant example of design and execution, Jones lined up wide left on one snap, went into motion, stopped behind tight end Jimmy Graham, took a quick pass from Aaron Rodgers, and weaved/sprinted 67 yards for the touchdown. That was part of a seven-catch, 159-receiving-yard performance, the best by a back in the Rodgers era. “In this offense,” Jones told me in a conversation for “The Peter King Podcast” this week, “backs are asked to be used in different ways and you gotta be versatile. I’m glad I can bring that aspect.”

Jones had to grow up fast. His mom and dad, both career Army veterans, were deployed to Iraq in 2003 and Jones, at age 8, and two siblings lived with an aunt and uncle for six months. “At the time,” Jones said, “you’re not understanding really what war is. You hear ‘war’ when you’re younger and you just think of people being killed. So you’re not knowing if you’re gonna see them or anything.” The lesson he learned from those long days and nights, his parents on the other side of the world in harm’s way? “Never take a second with them for granted because they’re 29, 27 years in the Army. Any day could’ve been the day. I don’t know what went on over there, but who knows. One step to the right, one step to the left, things could’ve been different.”

Back to football … In Rodgers’ 12 starting seasons, a back has never been higher than third in receptions on the team. Jones, through nine weeks, has 34 catches, nine more than any Packer. “The offense that Coach LaFleur runs, I think it fits me very well,” Jones said. “He likes to use backs everywhere, all over the field and so the better you can catch, the more you’ll play.” Even as Davante Adams returns from a foot injury, look for Jones to use his versatility to be a hard-to-defend weapon for Rodgers.

Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end, Kansas City. With the touted Frank Clark (neck) playing hurt and playing unproductively (three sacks in 405 snaps), the Chiefs are counting on another defensive end to fulfill his promise. The 32nd pick in the 2016 draft, Ogbah never panned out for Cleveland and was sent to the Chiefs in April for safety Eric Murray. The Chiefs have gotten the better of the deal. Ogbah has a team-high 4.5 sacks and 17 pressures/hits. If the Chiefs are going to going to be good enough defensively, Ogbah’s got to pick up the Clark slack.

Fred Warner, middle linebacker, San Francisco. With the loss of playmaking outside ‘backer Kwon Alexander to a torn pectoral muscle, the weight falls on Warner to be a sideline-to-sideline insurance policy behind the strong Niners’ defensive front. Warner’s missed some stops, but he’s the team leader in tackles, and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s put a lot on his plate: Warner has played every snap in six of San Francisco’s eight wins.

Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein, left and right tackle, L.A. Rams. Last year, Havenstein was PFF’s fourth-rated offensive tackle, and Whitworth eighth. This year, through midseason, Whitworth is 22nd and Havenstein has plummeted to 73rd. It likely has to do with the chaotic interior line; the two guards and center are all in the bottom five of PFF’s rankings at their positions. “Teaching the puppies,” Whitworth told me a couple of weeks ago, about the difference in the 2019 Rams. They’d better learn fast.

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Most compelling coaches to watch in the next two months, for many reasons:

Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator, Indianapolis. A few months before the Rams hired Sean McVay at 30 in 2017, one of our writers at The MMQB, Andy Benoit, wrote that McVay was far and away, despite his age, the best head-coaching candidate in the NFL. Rams COO Kevin Demoff read the piece, got interested in McVay, interviewed him, and the rest is Rams history. “I’m probably as high on Eberflus as anyone since Sean McVay,” Benoit said on my podcast this week. Eberflus has integrated scads of young players into his defense and gotten them to play fast quickly. Very highly regarded about the league. Should get a head-coaching job.

Jason Garrett, head coach, Dallas. It’s a myth that Dallas needs to win X number of games, or get to X point in the playoffs for Garrett to stay. Now that Sean Payton has re-signed in New Orleans and likely won’t be going anywhere, Jerry Jones would prefer to keep Garrett, but he won’t if the Cowboys have a clunker finish.

Freddie Kitchens, head coach, Cleveland. Two big issues with the Browns that must improve for Kitchens to be sure to return in 2020: Baker Mayfield and Kitchens made beautiful music post-Hue Jackson last year, and Mayfield stinks through half a season now. In eight games with Kitchens as play-caller last year, Mayfield was plus-11 in TD-to-pick ratio. In his first eight this year, he’s minus-five. Mayfield is Kitchens’ baby, and the baby’s been colicky for two months. (And Kitchens has to get Mayfield to stop making mountains out of piss-ant, nothing issues. It’s always something with the guy.) And the Browns’ discipline has been awful: 12.6 penalties called on the Browns per game, through Week 8, far and away the most in the league. The wins will come in the soft eight-game end to the season; I see Cleveland rallying to 7-9 or 8-8. But the sloppiness and quarterback crappiness/moodiness has to end. If not, I could see John Dorsey having a head-coaching decision (Eric Bienemy? Lincoln Riley?) to make after one season.

Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England. Packers got turned off (at least some in the organization did) by McDaniels’ about-face with the Colts in February 2018, which is understandable. McDaniels gets the who-couldn’t-win-with-Brady treatment too. But some team with a malleable quarterback (or one to draft) would be smart to overlook that in the face of McDaniels’ inarguable production. He entered this year with seven straight years with a top-five offense as coordinator, is totally trusted and nearly revered by Brady, was given money far beyond coordinator money to stay in New England, has been given assurance that he’ll get first crack at being Belichick’s heir, has never had a franchise receiver, and has made due with overall average offensive talent at best. I know this: If I ran a team with a coaching opening, and if I got satisfactory answers about why McDaniels jilted the Colts, and if I had a struggling quarterback, or I were about to draft a quarterback of the future, McDaniels would be my slam-dunk choice.

Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco. He’d better get his best suit pressed, and his polish his head-coach presentation. Saleh will be sought for interviews after the regular season, and rightfully so. Players in San Francisco played hard for him when they had a talent deficit, and now that they’re significantly better, Saleh’s schemes and play-calling are showing them off.

Eric Bienemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City. A natural in front of a room of players. Imaginative. Patrick Mahomes swears by him. If I were running the Washington search, Bienemy, McDaniels and Shaw would be high on my list

Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma. I don’t see it, though he might have to have a conversation if Jerry Jones calls. I keep hearing he may leave Oklahoma one day for the NFL, just not now.

Other college guys. Ohio State’s Ryan Day is intriguing, and almost went with Mike Vrabel as offensive coordinator a couple of years ago. A riser … One of these days, an NFL team will think Brian Kelly is the right fit and go after him hard … I still think, despite the shine being off Stanford a bit, that David Shaw would be a perfect NFL coach. I’m not sure I’d leave Stanford for the NFL pressure, but that doesn’t mean an NFL president shouldn’t go knocking on his door.

Adam Gase, head coach, Jets. He’s 5-15 in his last 20 games as a head coach, and Sam Darnold has been regressing. No indication Gase could be one-and-done, but the Jets play teams with a combine 6-25 record in the next five weeks. With an impatient owner. Would be smart to win three of those.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here

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

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The NFL playoffs are in full swing and Super Bowl 2023 will be here before we know it! See below for answers to all of your questions about the big game. Be sure to tune to NBC and Peacock every week for Sunday Night Football games this season and extra content from Mike Florio, Matthew Berry, Chris Simms and more.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

Four teams are left heading into the Conference Championships and only two will make it to Super Bowl LVII. Ahead of this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the biggest game of the NFL season.

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

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

When was the last time Rihanna released an album?

Rihanna’s most recent album “Anti” came out in 2016. The Barbados native has spent the last few years venturing into various business industries including beauty, fashion, and makeup. Additionally, the superstar welcomed her first child, a boy, in May of 2022.

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

Which NFL team has the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history?

The Patriots and Steelers are not only familiar with playing on the big stage, but they also know what it takes to come out on top. New England and Pittsburgh are tied for the most Super Bowl victories in the NFL with six each. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have won five Lombardi Trophies each and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are tied with four Super Bowl championships.

  • New England Patriots: 6
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
  • San Francisco 49ers: 5
  • Dallas Cowboys: 5
  • Green Bay Packers: 4
  • New York Giants: 4

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


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.

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.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

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!

2023 NFL Playoffs: What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

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The NFC crown is up for grabs on Sunday, and it will be Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off with Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers to secure a ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. These two high-powered teams have both had seasons for the storybooks, but possibly no story this year has been greater than that of “Mr. Irrelevant’s” emergence.

From the 262nd pick in the draft to a third-string quarterbacking role, the odds of Purdy making a splash in the NFL seemed all but impossible at the start of the season. But just months later, the 23-year-old finds himself captaining one of the league’s most storied franchises on a playoff run in hopes of bringing a sixth Lombardi home to the Bay.

The 49ers will take on the Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. EST. Let’s take a closer look at Purdy’s emergence from “Mr. Irrelevant” to QB1.

RELATED: 49ers vs. Eagles NFC Championship matchup, series history

Where did Brock Purdy go to college?

Before Purdy was a Niner, he was first an Iowa State Cyclone.

In fact, Purdy rose to stardom in Ames much like he is now doing in San Francisco. Purdy entered the picture at Iowa State as the third-string quarterback, in line for field time behind quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Nolan.

The season-opener, however, shook things up. Kempt suffered an MCL injury against Iowa, bumping up Nolan to the role of signal-caller. Nolan then saw a rough three-game stretch, forcing ISU coach Matt Campbell to give the freshman Purdy an opportunity.

Purdy would take this opportunity and run with it. He first entered the scene mid-game against Oklahoma State, leading the Cyclones to a thrilling victory over the Cowboys as they edged them out, 48-42. Purdy was now the man for Iowa State.

In his four-year career, Purdy was simply a winner. He finished his time in Ames as Iowa State’s career leader in passing yards (12,170), total offense (13,347), touchdown passes (81), completions (993), passing efficiency (151.1) and completion percentage (67.7). The wide-eyed freshman with an opportunity developed into the winningest quarterback in Cyclones history (30-17).

RELATED: Eagles DC warned 49ers of ‘electric’ atmosphere at the Linc

Jalen Hurts vs Brock Purdy collegiate record

Sunday’s Conference Championship will not be the first time that Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy have gone head-to-head. The Cyclones faced off with the Oklahoma Sooners in November of 2019.

While the senior Hurts and his offense diced up Iowa State’s defense early, Purdy would charge his team to a comeback from the 35-14 halftime deficit. Purdy led an epic resurgence coming out of the locker room, outscoring the Sooners 27-7. A savvy drive from the sophomore late in the fourth resulted in a 33-yard touchdown to Sean Shaw Jr., cutting the deficit to 42-35 with three minutes remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Hurts made a disastrous mistake, throwing a pass into traffic that was picked off by Lawrence White. With the ball at the Oklahoma 35, Purdy could not be stopped, pulling off a few impressive plays before connecting with Charlie Kolar in the end zone.

The scoreboard now read 42-41, and the Cyclones wanted to end the game right then and there. Purdy dropped back for the two-point conversion, throwing a dart to La’Michael Pettway. The pass hit Pettway’s hands, but was then knocked away by Oklahoma defenders. While the epic comeback could not be completed, it was a game to be remembered.

RELATED: Brock Purdy views time at Iowa State as ‘blessing in disguise’

When was Brock Purdy drafted?

Brock Purdy found a home in San Francisco on Saturday, April 30 when he was selected by the 49ers as the 262nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As Melanie Salata held up the “Mr. Irrelevant” jersey on the NFL Draft stage, no one knew that the name on the back of it would rise to relevance so quickly.

The seventh-round pick was passed over by nearly every NFL team, except for one. Not even the 49ers knew that this selection would hold so much magnitude, as Purdy was merely expected to be a third-string rookie sitting behind starter Trey Lance and backup Nate Sudfeld.

RELATED: CMC vows to be ready for NFC title game despite calf discomfort

How has Brock Purdy fared as an NFL starter?

San Francisco’s blueprint at the beginning of the season would be thrown out the door very quickly. The 49ers made the decision in late August to retain veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and release Sudfeld, allowing Purdy to remain in his third-string role.

When Lance suffered a crushing injury against the Seahawks in just the second game of the season, it seemed clear that Garoppolo was destined to lead the team to its third playoff appearance in four years. Garoppolo would go 6-3 in his next nine starts, making Super Bowl aspirations once again very real for the team that lost the big game just three years prior.

In a critical battle against the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, however, that vision faded. Garoppolo suffered a broken foot on the final play of the team’s opening drive, and “Mr. Irrelevant” was now QB1.

Purdy’s first drive of the game ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to give San Francisco a 10-7 lead. As with his starting role in Iowa State, Purdy has yet to look back.

RELATED: Brock Purdy’s PFF grades show how well he operates under pressure

He drove the team to a 33-17 victory over Miami, finishing the day 25 for 37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His starting debut came the next week, against none other than the great Tom Brady.

The rookie tore through Tampa Bay, becoming the first quarterback to ever defeat Brady in his first start. The game ended with an emotional hug from his father, who had witnessed his son take down a quarterback who has been playing pro football longer than Brock has been alive.

Purdy remains undefeated as an NFL starter. Since taking over in Week 13, “Mr. Irrelevant” has gone 7-0, with an overtime victory and two playoff triumphs. While many thought the rookie would crumble under postseason pressure, he has yet to let his team down. In the 49ers wild card battle against their division foe Seattle Seahawks, he became the first NFL rookie to score four touchdowns in a playoff game. While the divisional round success over Dallas wasn’t the prettiest victory, Purdy got the job done, advancing his team to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year.

Will Brock Purdy play in NFC Championship game?

Now, the seventh rounder will clash with a daunting Philadelphia defense for the conference crown, with aspirations of becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever hoist a Lombardi. On Monday ahead of the Conference Championships, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told media that he’d be “very surprised” if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to play in Sunday’s game, meaning that Purdy is still QB1, with Josh Johnson as the backup.

RELATED: When was the last time the 49ers made it to, won the Super Bowl?

Has a rookie QB ever started in a Super Bowl?

Should the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl, Purdy has a shot to cap an unbelievable season with a particularly remarkable accomplishment: No rookie quarterback has won a Super Bowl, and in fact, no rookie quarterback has ever started in a Super Bowl.

RELATED: Ranking potential Super Bowl LVII matchups

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023

Check out ProFootballTalk for more on the 2023 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, picks, recaps, news, rumors and more.