[H]iring a top assistant from Andy Reid’s coaching tree has proved prosperous in the past.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is the most notable of the bunch, but two other Reid disciples, Ron Rivera and John Harbaugh, also made the Super Bowl after being hired away from Reid’s staff, and Harbaugh appears ready to vie for another Super Bowl this year in Baltimore.
Enter Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, the latest Reid protégé who appears poised for a productive head coaching career. Bienemy -- who has nine years of NFL experience as a running back throughout the 1990s -- is one of the chief (pun intended) offensive architects in Kansas City.
Eric Berry (Chiefs, 2010-18)
Among the triumvirate of Sherman, Thomas and tone-setting strong safety Kam Chancellor, it wasn’t always easy to ascertain exactly which one was the engine making the Legion of Boom go. As valuable as the other two may have been, I always thought it was Thomas’ sideline-to-sideline range and exceptional closing speed as the center fielder that made Pete Carroll’s Cover 3 defense sing. Thomas is first among safeties in Pro Bowls (7) this decade and second in picks (30, just behind Reggie Nelson’s 31). He’s tied for first in All-Pro selections with Berry, which may come as a surprise to casual observers. While Berry had just five relatively injury-free seasons, he made the Pro Bowl in each of those campaigns and is second only to Malcolm Jenkins among safeties this era with five interceptions returned for touchdowns. Healthier, more productive safeties such as Jenkins, Eric Weddle, Harrison Smith, Glover Quin and Devin McCourty have strong claims to the second spot behind Thomas. You’ll have to forgive me if I give the nod to Berry as the only one to capture Comeback Player of the Year recognition after beating cancer and returning to play at a high level.
Quarterbacks -- Sit ‘Em
Philip Rivers at Kansas City Chiefs: Rivers was a bust for fantasy fans a week ago, scoring just 11.2 points in a loss to the Raiders. He’s a fade this week, even in superflex leagues, when the Chargers face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Over the last four weeks, enemy quarterbacks have thrown just two touchdown passes while averaging the fewest fantasy points versus K.C.
As things currently stand, the Chiefs have four cornerbacks set to hit the free agent market. These names range from depth pieces such as Keith Reaser and Morris Claiborne, all the way to starters like Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. Standout boundary corner Charvarius Ward and rookie Rashad Fenton are the only notable names set to return in 2020.
That’s where Florida State cornerback Stanford Samuels III comes in. A junior for the Seminoles, Samuels has been a mainstay in the FSU secondary for three years now. In 2018, he recorded 58 tackles, intercepted four passes, and added another four passes defended. He’s gotten even better this season. Despite seeing his interception total drop to two in 2019, he’s made 60 tackles (1.5 for a loss) and defended seven passes.
Now that the Ravens have secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage in the playoffs, there should be another wish on coach John Harbaugh’s Christmas list:
Please don’t play the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of all the other AFC teams that have already earned playoff spots, Kansas City is the most likely to beat the Ravens. It’s not just because the Chiefs have beaten the Ravens in Arrowhead Stadium in each of the past two seasons, but because their offense, particularly quarterback Patrick Mahomes, causes major matchup problems.
The bottom line is that the Ravens might not be able to keep up.
PHOENIX - Hundreds of athletes and musicians came together at St. Vincent de Paul on Wednesday to make sure everyone had a warm meal on Christmas Day.
It’s an annual tradition organized by the nonprofit Champions for the Homeless, which was founded 14 years ago by retired Kansas City Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery. Lowery brought several NFL legends together, and the group served nearly 1,000 homeless men and women on Wednesday.
K.C. isn’t likely to move up to the No. 2 seed because of the Pats, but they’ll still be playing to retain their No. 3 spot. L.A. might’ve given them a scare earlier in the year, but the Chargers are dead. Patrick Mahomes will have a nice chance to build momentum.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 20
T-3. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4)
Previous rank: 4
Points in poll: 204
Highest-place vote: 2 (1 voter)
Lowest-place vote: 5 (2 voters)
Last week’s result: Beat Chicago, 26-3
This week: vs. L.A. Chargers
Solid day at the office as the Chiefs brushed aside the Bears to claim the AFC West crown. An outstanding defensive game is always a good omen for this bunch (234 total yards for the Bears), as is Patrick Mahomes going 23-of-33 for 251 yards and two TDs. And Chicago fans didn’t let their team forget that they could have had Mahomes.
Austin Jackson OL
The run on offensive tackles ends here, with the Chiefs getting the young but ultra-talented Jackson, who needs to add weight and strength before he rounds into form.
Around the NFL
Only two other Super Bowl winners have followed their victory parade with four consecutive non-playoff seasons - the post-Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants following Eli Manning’s second upset of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in 2012.
”It’s like eating at a five-star restaurant and then next thing you know, you’re eating at McDonald’s every day,” defensive end Derek Wolfe said.
“When you’re winning, everybody loves you. When you’re losing, everybody’s looking at you, like ‘Oh, maybe it’s his fault.’ And you take burden on yourself, you take that loss on yourself,” said Wolfe, who’s on IR with an elbow injury. “A true leader points fingers back at himself. So, it’s like I’m taking responsibility for all these losses, and it’s like, man, what more can I do?”
“Obviously, Ben, playing as long as he has, I’m sure he’s been in some of these must-win games,” Hodges said Wednesday. “I believe they were in a must-win game last year. Mason, obviously being around me. Both those guys, they help me out with little things here and there. It’s good to have those guys around.”
One last title push for the Rivers-led Chargers? Not exactly ...
The Los Angeles Chargers took a huge step forward in 2018, going 12-4 and advancing to the Divisional Round. It felt like Philip Rivers would make that final push for a ring in 2019. But nothing about the Chargers clicked this year. First, it was Melvin Gordon’s holdout. Then injuries to key defensive players like Derwin James. And finally, Rivers turned in his worst -- and most reckless -- season in years. The Bolts went from well-rounded contenders to 5-10 cellar-dwellers. Tough year all around.
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Throwing the ball deeper, while at larger risk of interception, leads to better outcomes on average. This becomes incredibly clear when we compare Mahomes’ success on third-and-very long to his peers, along with the above-air yard distributions. He isn’t afraid to sling the ball down field (no matter the weather), and this helps him convert at a historic rate.
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