Last season’s AFC Championship Game got off to a promising — if not stunning — start before Kansas City’s offense woke up and removed any real intrigue. It was a disappointing end to what was initially billed a high-flying conference title game between the reigning champions and perhaps the only AFC team equipped to keep pace with them.
Instead, it was largely a flop. But after an offseason in which the Bills quietly added in areas of need and the Chiefs impressively revamped their offensive line, this rematch of two top-tier squads could give us a much more entertaining showdown, set to once again take place at Arrowhead. Can Josh Allen outduel Patrick Mahomes? Will we get more defensive resistance from the Bills this time around? Might this be a key result that could sway the conference’s seeding? Check back in for the answers this fall.
The new NFL season is quickly approaching, and despite losing Super Bowl LV, the Kansas City Chiefs remain the team to beat, according to the latest 2022 Super Bowl odds. Led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and a plethora of game-breaking pass catchers, the Chiefs are the +525 favorites at William Hill Sportsbook to win Super Bowl 56 at SoFi Stadium. The Buccaneers, who are led by seven-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady and beat Kansas City in Super Bowl LV, are +650.
The Buffalo Bills, who are winless in four Super Bowl appearances, own the third-best 2022 Super Bowl futures odds at +1300. Every other team is listed at +1400 or higher. Before making any 2022 Super Bowl picks, you need to check out the NFL predictions from the SportsLine Projection Model.
Kansas City Chiefs
Projected compensatory picks: Round 7.
Key free-agent losses: Tanoh Kpassagnon (Saints), Sammy Watkins (Ravens).
Key free-agent additions: Joe Thuney.
Comp-pick analysis: The Chiefs lost two qualifiers and signed one, which put them in position to potentially add a seventh-rounder for the loss of Kpassagnon, with the Watkins and Thuney signings offsetting.
On Thursday, Oakley debuted their brand-new Kato design, an all-sport, purpose-built piece of eyewear set to be worn by approximately 1,000 Team Oakley athletes at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Kato fits your face in an almost mask-like design, featuring frameless Oakley Prizm lenses, an extended wrap and a number of unique customizable features.
During the development of this product, Mahomes was among an elite group of athletes selected to test the prototype. That group also included cyclist Mark Cavendish, BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester, and racecar driver Joseph Newgarden. The extensive testing and feedback by Mahomes and these athletes ultimately informed the final design of Oakley Kato.
Around the NFL
After playing three seasons alongside his brother, Devin, Jason McCourty follows Flores to Miami, staying in the AFC East and joining a team that could use a veteran voice as it learns how to finish a playoff push.
Miami informed safety Bobby McCain he’d be released earlier Thursday, shedding salary cap in the process while also saying goodbye to a team captain. McCourty has a history of success and brings instant credibility with him to Miami, but it will be interesting to see where he lines up in Miami’s defense.
After the NFL draft last weekend, Lions general manager Brad Holmes called reaching a long-term deal with Ragnow “extremely important.”
“He is a foundational piece because Frank is a guy that plays the game the right way,” Holmes said. “He’s everything that we look for and what we want as a Lion.”
In a wide-ranging email to players, which was read to ESPN, union officials devoted a section to the season-ending Achilles tendon injury James suffered earlier this week while working out away from the Broncos’ complex.
In the email, union officials said:
“It was gutless to use a player’s serious injury as a scare tactic to get you to come running back to these workouts.
“This memo is another sign of what they think of you and also affirms that they simply want to control you year-round in any and every way that they can.
“We have been in touch with Ja’Wuan James. Despite an open threat of an ‘NFI’ designation, Ja’Wuan was working out to stay in shape under a program recommended to him by his coach.’’
5. Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Chargers
Samuel screams instant impact on film. He’s feisty at the line of scrimmage, stays in phase during the route like a five-year veteran — thanks to jagged athletic traits — and plays the football in the air like his father.
And it was time for the Chargers to add a youthful cornerback to the roster. Disregard the fact that Samuel is not even 5-11. Neither is Denzel Ward. He can play on the perimeter in Los Angeles’ offense and thrive. If he does need to play in the slot — which many cornerbacks have to do on occasion — there’s precedent with new Chargers head coach Brandon Staley making it work with a 5-10 defensive back.
With the Rams, the nearly identically-sized Troy Hill flourished inside and ultimately signed a lucrative deal with the Browns in free agency. Samuel is going to be star from the jump in the NFL.
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How he factors into the 2021 depth chart
Bolton should not be the starting MIKE linebacker in 2021 — Hitchens has earned the right to be cemented in that role. In recent years, linebacker Ben Niemann has been the immediate backup to Hitchens due to his high IQ in Spagnuolo’s scheme. That will likely remain as Bolton learns the intricacies of the defensive scheme. However, I would slot Bolton in over Darius Harris at MIKE just for the upside.
Bolton should still be able to see the field in 2021, likely as the SAM linebacker in base formations. He has the requisite physique to handle being closer to the line of scrimmage and has enough burst to provide pass-rush potential. He has competition now: the Chiefs reportedly signed veteran linebacker Kamalei Correa, who has experience at SAM in recent seasons. I see those two competing head-to-head for the primary SAM snaps in those base sets. If Bolton proves he can handle it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Correa released before the season.
Bolton could also take snaps as the WILL linebacker in base — but there is a heightened coverage responsibility that comes with that role, and a healthy Willie Gay Jr. should man that position in all formations.
At the very least, Bolton should be solid depth for all three linebacker positions.
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