Nyheim Hines’ kickoff return TD connected to Damar Hamlin


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.—You want the truth about the coin flip that set in motion the script so unlikely that Spielberg would have found it far-fetched? If the Bills had won the toss, Sean McDermott would have deferred.

The Bills would have kicked off.

“I’m glad they lost this one,” McDermott told me.

I should say so. Someday, and not too long from now, this generation’s “Brian’s Song” (look it up, kids), will be a movie based on the life and near-death of Damar Hamlin. There will be a centerpiece moment based in an old stadium in western New York. John David Washington will play Nyheim Hines, and Michael B. Jordan will be Damar Hamlin. Sean McDermott? Maybe Jude Law. There won’t be any problem finding extras in Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and Lackawanna for the crowd scenes.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. The Patriots actually won the toss at Highmark Stadium Sunday afternoon, and as Bill Belichick loves deferring and taking the ball to start the second half, New England deferred.

When Nick Folk kicked the ball high into the air, headed for Nyheim Hines inside the five-yard line, Hines had a lot to think about. He thought about Hamlin, foremost. Nine weeks ago, Hines was the new guy, traded from the Colts to Buffalo to be a return specialist and backup back. Hamlin, a stranger to Hines, came up to him on his first day in the building and introduced himself. Every day that first week, Hamlin would stop and talk to Hines, the new kid in school, and he started telling Hines he’d break a long one soon. “You’re gonna take one,” Hamlin told him. “I can feel it.” Every day at practice, Hamlin would say something about a big return.

“He would say, ‘Hashtag free Hines!’” Hines said late Sunday afternoon. They’d say that silly little thing to each other almost every day, Hamlin reminding the new kid not only that he could take a kick to the house, but he would do it.

So the ball was coming from Folk, and Hines thought for a millisecond about Hamlin, watching in his Cincinnati hospital room 425 miles to the southwest, and he said to himself, “All right, Nyheim, let’s give ‘em something to cheer about.”

Said Hines: “Our team, we had Damar’s wings on our backs today.”

Hines certainly did. He ran untouched for 96 yards on the opening kickoff, fulfilling something Hamlin foresaw. Touchdown. Mayhem in the rebuilt place that 30 years ago this week housed another miracle: the Bills’ comeback from 32 points down to beat Houston in the Frank Reich Wild Card game. Hines’ touchdown came at 1:03 p.m.

From Hamlin’s Twitter feed, at 1:06 p.m: “OMFG!!!!!!!!!”

“Flabbergasted,” Hines said later.

“Trying to manage the game is my number one job,” McDermott said. “But this week, I thought to myself, ‘How special would it be if we took the opening kickoff back?’”

Then Hines did it again, returning one 101 yards for a score in the third quarter. Now the absurdity of the opening kickoff was doubled. The 70,753 in the place, and millions watching to see if the Bills could give Hamlin a consistent ear-to-ear grin in his University of Cincinnati Medical Center room, knew it was a game, and returner, they’d never forget. No one in the NFL had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in a game since 2010.

“I’m the new guy here,” Hines said, “but hopefully I had a little impact on something that’s way bigger than myself.”

We’ll let Netflix be the judge of that.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

NFL quarterback rankings 2023: Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of upcoming NFL season


While the NFL is a league that is ever-changing, some things are set to stay the same in 2023 — like the revealing of Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown.

Last year’s list saw Josh Allen take his place atop the quarterback throne, with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles’ Justin Herbert not far behind at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. It was, however, Mahomes who would ultimately reign over all NFL quarterbacks at the end of the season, as the 27-year-old collected both the NFL MVP honors and his second Lombardi Trophy.

This NFL offseason, however, has brought some intriguing adjustments that are likely to shake up Simms’ rankings.

While some signal-callers such as Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson found their prolonged home with massive contract signings, others will be venturing to a new franchise in search of a fresh start. Aaron Rodgers‘ trade to the New York Jets is unquestionably the most staggering shift, but other quarterbacks on the move such as Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo cannot be forgotten.

RELATED: Mike Florio gives an inside look into the Lamar Jackson deal

And with three of the first four picks in the 2023 NFL Draft being spent on a quarterback, emerging talent will likely turn the tides for some franchises this upcoming season.

See below for Chris Simms’ top 40 QB countdown ahead of the upcoming season. Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL season as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: Peter King’s latest offseason NFL power rankings

Chris Simms’ 2023 Top 40 QB Countdown:

40. Desmond Ridder (ATL)

39. Sam Howell (WAS)

38. Bryce Young (CAR)

37. CJ Stroud (HOU)

36. Anthony Richardson (IND)

35. Mike White (MIA)

34. Gardner Minshew (IND)

33. Taylor Heinicke (ATL)

32. Jarrett Stidham (DEN)

31. Jordan Love (GB)

30. Davis Mills (HOU)

29. Tyler Huntley (BAL)

28. Andy Dalton (CAR)

27. Sam Darnold (SF)

26. Brock Purdy (SF)

25. Kenny Pickett (PIT)

24. Baker Mayfield (TB)

23. Justin Fields (CHI)

22. Jimmy Garoppolo (LV)

21. Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

20. Mac Jones (NE)

2023 NFL Schedule Release: Start time, how to watch, live stream, channel


With another exciting NFL Draft in the books, teams can now turn their gaze toward the road to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. The path to Super Bowl glory, however, is about to become abundantly more clear with the 2023 NFL season schedule release.

This year’s NFL season schedule release is nearly here, with the entirety of the 2023 NFL schedule being unveiled on Thursday, May 11 at 8 p.m. ET on both Peacock and NFL Network. See below for everything you need to know for one of the offseason’s most anticipated events.

RELATED: Click here for full analysis on Rounds 1-7 of the 2023 NFL Draft

When will the 2023 NFL season schedule be released?

While all 272 matchups have been known since the conclusion of the 2022 regular season, the order and dates for these games have remained a mystery. The secret is nearly out, however, with every NFL game on the brink of revelation.

The full 2023 NFL schedule will be released on Thursday, May 11 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

How can I watch the 2023 NFL season schedule release?

The 2023 NFL season schedule release will take place Thursday, May 11 on Peacock, NFL Network, NFL.com and the NFL app at 8 p.m. ET.

While the entirety of the schedule will be unveiled at that time, select games have already been and will continue to be released prior to the official event. Ahead of the 2023 NFL season schedule release, the following games will be announced:

Who will play in the 2023 NFL Kickoff game?

The first game of the 2023-24 NFL season will see the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs take the field in Arrowhead Stadium.

The opponent that will meet Patrick Mahomes and company in Kansas City, however, remains to be revealed.

Which NFL teams have international games in 2023?

While the majority of the matchups set to take place next season have yet to be announced, the league has already revealed which teams will head overseas for international showdowns.

Below is the full list of international NFL games for the 2023-24 season, with three in London, U.K., and two in Frankfurt, Germany.

Falcons vs. Jaguars: Week 4, Oct. 1 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Wembley Stadium in London, U.K.

Jaguars vs. Bills: Week 5, Oct. 8 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Ravens vs. Titans: Week 6, Oct. 15 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, U.K.

Dolphins vs. Chiefs: Week 9, Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

Colts vs. Patriots: Week 10, Nov. 12 at 9:30 a.m. ET | Frankfurt Stadium in Frankfurt, Germany

RELATED: NFL’s 2023 international games full of “star power”

When is the Super Bowl and where will it be taking place?

Stars will be shining bright in Las Vegas, Nevada, for Super Bowl LVIII, set to take place on Feb. 11, 2024, at the home of the Raiders in Allegiant Stadium.

This will be the first Super Bowl to ever take place in Las Vegas, which hosted the 2023 Pro Bowl and 2022 NFL Draft.

Be sure to follow ProFootballTalk for the latest news, updates, and storylines about the upcoming NFL season!