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NFL News and Notes: January 29, 2019

Super Bowl Sunday Is Upon Us

Super Bowl LIII is set to kick off this Sunday and storylines have been swirling about who will have the advantage. While the betting odds have the Patriots as 3-point favorites, it could be anybody’s game at this point. If the AFC and NFC Championship games were any indication, two games that needed overtime to find a winner, then this could be a good one. Here are some of the notable storylines as people look for who has the advantage:

Belichick vs. McVay

This matchup features arguably one of the best coaches to ever roam the sidelines in Bill Belichick against one of the brightest up-and-comers in the coaching world in 33-year-old Sean McVay. One interesting note that Mcvay revealed to Peter King is that the two have been in constant contact throughout the season. McVay even went as far as to say, “…he has basically texted me after every one of our games.” It will be interesting what two great minds come up with in this Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Aaron Donald vs. Tom Brady

Although the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense was atrocious this entire season, one area that they did dominate is sacking the quarterback. It is for that reason that it was surprising how upright Tom Brady remained in the matchup against the Chiefs. This now becomes the test for Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive line. How can they get pressure against Brady? Especially given his proclivity to throw “dink and dunk” type passes to the likes of James White and Julian Edelman, having the time to get to him will be paramount for Los Angeles.

Todd Gurley vs. CJ Anderson

One of the most interesting topics from the NFC Championship game was the basic non-existence of Todd Gurley in the running game. Having dealt with injuries down the stretch, it was believed that he would be a major factor in the playoffs. At least for the game against the Saints, that was certainly not the case. While CJ Anderson has been a nice story for the Rams down the stretch filling in for Gurley, he is still not the same caliber of running back. If the Rams want a chance at succeeding against Belichick’s defense, a healthy Gurley would go a long way.

Alex Smith To Miss Next Season

The case of Alex Smith is a sad one. Smith was injured in week 11 against the Houston Texans, and his leg injury was immediately seen as season-ending. Unfortunately, it then came out that he was suffering from an infection in the leg and, at one time, there was discussions that it may have needed to be amputated. Luckily not the case, the setback seems to have put his career on the backburners for the time being. While there is still some uncertainty as to whether he will ever suit up again for a game, Washington’s team president, Bruce Allen, basically made it sound as if he would likely not be playing in 2019. Prior to his injury, Smith was having a decent season, having thrown for 2,180 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is technically signed through the 2022 season.

Hirings, Firings, and Extensions

After losing in the AFC Championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs made a quick decision in firing defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. For the Chiefs, they consistently ranked as one of the worst defenses, especially in yards and points given up, although they did lead the league in sacks. Still, the defense was not enough to slow Tom Brady down, and their inability to get off the field on 3rd downs cost them the game.
Despite the firing, it did not take long for the Chiefs to find a replacement. The Chiefs will hire Steve Spagnuolo as their new defensive coordinator, according to Mike Garafolo. Spagnuolo should be able to hit the ground running as he has already worked with Andy Reid in the past in Philadelphia.

After a week of discussing a possible firing, trade, or extension, the latter has prevailed. The Baltimore Ravens announced last Thursday that they have retained John Harbaugh as their head coach in a new deal that goes through the 2023 season. In his career, Harbaugh is 114-77, and with Lamar Jackson’s successful rookie season combined with a solid defense, Baltimore looks to be able to contend for years to come.

Notable Veterans Opt For At Least One More Year

After Drew Brees dismissed any ideas of retirement last week, this week a couple of other future hall of famers decided that they will be returning.

Larry Fitzgerald has signed a one year deal to return to the Arizona Cardinals. This will be Fitzgerald’s 16thseason in the NFL. While he is no longer the explosive player he once was (he only had 69 catches for 734 yards and 6 touchdowns this season), he is still a veteran leader for a Cardinals team that heavily disappointed this season. He is also seemingly one of the best all-around guys in the NFL, so it will be good to have him back for one more go around.

Tom Brady may be 41, but you would never know it if you looked at his play. This year, he has thrown for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns and has led the Patriots to yet another Super Bowl. Still, his age has led some to question whether this would be his last go around, but he dismissed those ideas last week. When asked, Brady said there was “zero chance” of him not coming back next season, according to Jeff Darlington of ESPN. If he keeps playing like he did this season, you can certainly understand why he wouldn’t want to hang them up quite yet. Next season will be his 20thin the NFL.

Outcome of Rams-Saints Taken To Court

Anyone who watched the Los Angeles Rams – New Orleans Saints game knows how much the Saints got robbed of a potentially outcome-changing call with only a couple minutes remaining on the clock. After a defensive pass interference (or helmet to helmet hit) was not called against Nickell Robey-Coleman (who ironically was fined for the hit), the Saints were forced to kick a field goal. The Rams had time to tie it and ultimately won the game in overtime, advancing to the Super Bowl. However, had the penalty been called, the Saints could have almost run the clock out before kicking a field goal and had left only seconds remaining for the Rams to respond.

While most fans simply shook their heads in disbelief, some are taking even stronger action. There has been a lawsuit filed against the NFL by Saints season ticket holders. While this will obviously not change the outcome of the game, they are hoping for a little vengeance from a call that has left them sick. That court case was moved to federal court on Monday since it includes citizens from Louisiana and a corporation, in the NFL, that covers other states as well. Again, there is little that can be done from a football standpoint, but it will be interesting to see how this case plays out. If nothing else, hopefully this will get some discussions going on how to prevent future travesties like this from happening.

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