Top 25 Offensive Free Agents 

By David McDonnell

With the combine last week, all of the attention was centred around the college prospects coming out this year. 

This week is all about free agency. Teams are allowed legally to approach out of contract players today and signings can become finalised from Wednesday. 

Players, agents, general managers and teams will be under pressure to get players re-signed before they hit the open market, where they usually get more money to move to a different team who have a identified a position of need to upgrade on. 

In recent seasons, we have seen both the Chiefs and Bengals pimp up their offensive lines to protect star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow, which has helped solidify both as Super Bowl contenders. 

However, there are way more examples of teams getting it wrong in free agency and overpaying for talent. Paying premium wages is a risk, but if you really want a player in demand it is a risk that many teams will continue to make in order to put themselves in position to reach the postseason and have a tilt at winning the Superbowl. 

So, let’s have a look at the 25 offensive players that I believe most teams will be cajoling into joining their ranks this week. 

  1. Lamar Jackson (QB) 

If I was a Ravens fan I would be starting to get a little worried. 

Reading between the lines, I expected Lamar to be looking for around $50 million a year on a long term contract. However, due to his playing style he takes a lot of physical punishment as he runs the ball into contact more than every other QB in the league. As Bill Parcells used to say: “ Big men stay big, fast guys slow down,” and although a terrific player at this point in time, it is more than likely that as Lamar loses his speed heading into his 30’s. It makes paying him guaranteed money at the back end of his contract more of a risk. 

Contract negotiations between GM Eric DeCosta and the former MVP have been trying to get a deal signed for two years and if he is not signed by Wednesday, Lamar will be a free agent. That is unlikely to happen though as Baltimore will likely stick a franchise tag on him and give themselves a few more months to work out a long term deal. 

What will be interesting will be what type of franchise tag they will likely add. If it is a restricted franchise tag then no team can enter discussions with Jackson and he will make $32.4 million next season, which is low for an NFL QB. 

However, if they were to put an unrestricted tag on Lamar, any team will be able to offer him a deal and if the Ravens don’t match it, then he can leave for two first round picks or through a negotiated deal. If this were to happen, then I could see teams such as the Falcons and the Titans being interested and willing to offer acceptable terms. 

I believe Lamar will wait to see what offer Daniel Jones will get from the Giants and the Ravens will have to trump this deal to keep the superstar QB in Baltimore. 

  1. Derek Carr (QB) 

Derek Carr is a wanted commodity, and he has taken visits with the Saints, Colts and Jets over the last few weeks. 

Carr is a good QB but is coming off a poor season, where he struggled to adapt to Josh McDaniels scheme in Las Vegas. Of his suitors, New York seems like the team best primed to make the playoffs next year but reading between the lines, it seems that they along with the Raiders are waiting to see what happens with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. 

The talk coming out of the Carr camp is that he will be patient and take his time over his decision, which I take to mean that he will also see what Rodgers does before making his decision. 

Should Rodgers stay in Green Bay or retire, then Carr will find the Jets more welcoming in their approach. However, the team that seems to be most vying for his services right now is in New Orleans and ultimately I believe that is where Derek Carr will be playing ball next season.

Carr is heading to the Saints on a four-year deal $150 million contract with $70 million guaranteed.

  1. Saquon Barkley (Running Back) 

There is no doubt that the star of the show for the New York Giants was their running-back last season. Saquon was absolutely sensational in helping the G-men into the playoffs, so what’s the problem?

The issue is paying a 26 year old running back the money he deserves on a long term contract. It is usually not in the best interest of most teams to splash money on running backs as they are most likely to get injured during a season due to their position. Barkley should be hoping to get similar to Christian McCaffery’s $12 million a year from the 49ers and if he doesn’t then he will hit the free agency market. 

The Giants are in a tricky position as they have yet to come to a long term deal with their quarterback Daniel Jones, who is also about to hit free agency. They can only apply the franchise tag to one. The big question is would Jones have been as successful without Saquon last season? I don’t think anybody believes he would, so if Jones’ contract is not sorted by Wednesday, then it will more likely be him. 

Should Saquon hit free agency, expect a contender like the Bills, Cowboys and Bengals all to be interested in the running back. 

  1. Daniel Jones (QB)

I don’t expect Daniel Jones to hit free agency coming off his best season for the Big Blue. He has taken huge strides in quarterback play under Brian Daboll but doubts remain about whether he will ever be good enough to bring a Superbowl to NYC. 

Jones will most likely get a long term contract with an allowance for the Giants to be able to pull the plug if things are not working out in the Big Apple after two or three years.

There is a high possibility Jones will be placed on the franchise tag, where he will be given around $32.4 million to prove that his form this season wasn’t a flash in the pan. The question here is does Brian Daboll want to be tied to this QB for a handful of years? 

  1.  Orlando Brown Jr (Tackle)

The left tackle from the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City has two Lombardi trophies to his name and wants to become the best paid tackle in football. 

It is a great time for Orlando to hit free agency after the Chiefs O-line allowed zero sacks in the Superbowl against the Eagles and he proudly wore a t-shirt emblazoned with ‘0 Sacks’ during their victory parade. 

Kansas City would like to bring him back but they won’t have the money he is expecting to make as they have to pay Patrick Mahomes the highest salary in the NFL. There is a possibility that Brown will end up being franchise tagged again for another season at £20 million. 

Although he is not among the best five left tackles in the NFL in my opinion, should he hit free agency then he will likely be the best paid. The Chicago Bears certainly have the resources to pay the big man big money on a front loaded contract as they also have their QB Justin Fields on a rookie contract. 

  1. Geno Smith (QB)

Although Geno is about to hit free agency, I don’t see it happening and I will be shocked if he is not tied down with a long term contract in Seattle.  

Last season he threw for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions while leading the NFL in completion percentage. More importantly he brought the Seahawks to  the playoffs. The fairytale looks to continue and he will get a long term deal somewhere around $40m a year. 

Should he hit free agency, then all the teams engaging with Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo will be interested, but I just don’t see him going anywhere. 

  1.  Mike McGlinchey (Tackle)

I have always rated McGlinchey as a good NFL tackle and although he lines up on the right side in San Francisco, he is good enough to play on the blind side. He has performed well in a zone-running scheme employed by Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and they have one of the top O-Lines in the NFL over the past three seasons. 

With a significant increase in the cap space, McGlinchey will likely make upwards of $18 million and the two teams with the most cap space are the Bears and Falcons. The Bears are most in need of an O-Line upgrade, while the Falcons could be losing Caleb McGary at right-tackle, and the addition of the former Notre Dame tackle could make their offensive line close to elite. It is also a position the Commanders and the Titans will be looking to strengthen this offseason. 

  1. Odell Beckham Jr (Wide Receiver)

The wide receivers made big bucks in free agency last season and there is no one that has the ability of Odell available this year. 

Coming off an ACL injury that he suffered in the Superbowl win for the Rams in 2022, he will be in demand. However, it will be a financial risk for a player coming off a major injury at the age of 30. 

For me, Beckham is too big of a risk to make elite money at this stage of his career. I could see him wanting to return to the Giants, where he is still remembered as a star and I could also see Jerry Jones wanting another top receiver for Dak Prescott to put the Cowboys offence over the top. 

If I was Beckham, I would want to go to a team with an elite QB and an offensive head coach who knows how to get him the ball. If he can prove his fitness and sharpness, would the Bills be interested in teaming him up opposite Stefon Diggs? It is very difficult to know how this will play out but it will be worth watching all the same.  

  1.  Josh Jacobs (Running Back)

Jacobs will be a free agent after coming off the best season of his career and earning All-Pro honours as the best running back in football last season. 

Jacobs also has age on his side as he is only 25, which is young for a RB with four years of NFL experience in his locker. This is the optimum time for him to come out and get paid and I expect he will go to the team that will pay him the most. As I mentioned earlier, it is difficult for running backs to make significant money in the NFL. 

Jacobs would be a running threat, an excellent blocker and overall safety blanket for Justin Fields in the Windy City and immediately improve their offence. Also the teams that put their faith in rookie QBs this year as well as those on rookie contracts, will have a bit more room to manoeuvre to bring in help in free agency. 

The Panthers could be once such a team that would appreciate a talent such as Jacobs as a bell cow back next season. If Jacobs would take less money to go to a contender, then Buffalo would be a team that could do with his ability. I wouldn’t rule out him getting a franchise tag, but he might refuse to sign it in order to force a move elsewhere. 

  1.  Tony Pollard (Running Back) 

I can’t see Pollard getting a long term deal in Dallas or anywhere else while he is recovering from a broken leg suffered against the 49er in the playoffs in January. It was an untimely blow for the running back as he was about to have been offered a long term deal from Jerry Jones.  

He will end up on a franchise tag of around $10 million a year with the hope that he will come back into contention for a starting place during the season.

  1.  Jimmy Garoppolo (QB)

Jimmy G is coming off arguably his best NFL season and he will get one of the starting QB jobs once a few of the musical chairs of the QB merry-go-round start to get filled. 

Last season, there wasn’t much interest for Garoppolo in the trade market but as a free agent he will land somewhere. I can see the Jets being an option along with the Bucs who are needing a replacement for Tom Brady. He also has played under Josh McDaniels when they were at the Patriots, so the Raiders will be an option. 

Last season, Garoppolo was the last man standing as he was recovering from a shoulder injury and this season he needs to return from a broken foot. Expect him to get signed later rather than sooner and possibly after the draft in April by a team in need of a starting QB. 

12. Dalton Schultz (Tight End) 

There is a lack of quality tight ends in the NFL and Schultz has been one of the best at catching the football in the NFL over the past few seasons. He was franchised tagged last season in Dallas and is likely to become one of the best paid at his position this time around.

He would improve most teams as a day one starter and Green Bay is a place in dire need of an upgrade at the position but with a number of tight ends coming out in the draft this year, it is difficult to see where Schultz will end up. As he is only 26 with five years of NFL experience in the bag, his next team will sign a player heading into his prime. 

13. Isaac Seumalo (Guard) 

Seumalo is coming off a terrific season where he was the right guard on the dominant Eagles O-Line this season. He started all 17 games and impressed as a run blocker and in pass protection. Whichever team signs him, will get a player in the prime of his career at his position. 

There are a lot of teams looking for help at O-Line and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up at the Steelers, who had difficulty running the ball last season despite having an excellent RB in Najee Harris. 

Jason Kelce is another Eagles O-linemen heading towards free agency but I feel they will not let his leadership leave the locker room. That’s why he is not on this list. 

14.  Garrett Bradbury (Centre) 

Bradbury is one of the most underrated O-Linemen coming into free agency this year and is someone who will lock down the position for the team that signs him to a contract for the foreseeable future. 

With the Vikings projected to be $20 million over the cap, they won’t be able to pay him what he will earn in the open market. He would be an excellent signing, especially for a team with a young quarterback and again the Bears, Commanders, Giants and Raiders are all looking to upgrade at the position. 

Bradbury will likely have a great choice of destination and he will be one player I will be very interested to see where he ends up. From a personal point of view, I hope it’s in Washington. 

15.  Evan Engram (Tight End)

Evan Engram struck up a good partnership with Trevor Laurence especially at the end of the season. The Jags want him back and the player expressed a desire to return to Duval County. 

However, with plenty of teams looking for an upgrade at tight-end he could follow the stability of a long term contract elsewhere but not every team looking for a tight end has a Trevor Lawrence throwing the ball. 

In my opinion, a franchise tag of 11.3 million is the likeliest outcome this off season as the Jags are a projected 18 million over the cap.

16. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Wide Receiver) 

Coming off a winning Super Bowl season, the big mouthed wide receiver has certainly shut a few of his detractors up. 

Now he will feel, it is high time he got paid on a long term deal. He was Mahomes second favourite target this season behind Travis Kelce and you could see in the second half of the Super Bowl that Mahomes would go to him on key third downs when Kelce was double teamed. 

If he wants to win more Super Bowls then he should do his best to stay in Kansas City with the current MVP but he will get more money to move elsewhere in what has become an inflated market for wide receivers.

17. Jaawan Taylor (Tackle)

The Jags would like to keep tackle Jaawan Taylor, who is coming off a much improved season from a disappointing first three years in Jacksonville. Realistically the Jags won’t be able to afford him especially as they are likely to prioritise keeping Engam.

With the Chiefs likely to lose one or both their starting tackles in free agency, there might be a position open for protecting Patrick Mahomes at right tackle. Getting well paid for protecting the best player in the game and having the possibility of winning a Superbowl every year might be an offer that Taylor won’t refuse.

If such a move doesn’t work out, there will be numerous teams vying for a right tackle and he will make a lot of money in the open market. 

18. Caleb McGary (Tackle)

Another right tackle in an eerily similar position to Jaawan Taylor is Caleb McGary. He also is coming off his best season in a contract year and the Falcons have enough cap space to keep McGary should they choose to.  

I think it’s the likeliest scenario that he returns to Atlanta. There are many teams looking to upgrade their O-Line and would pay and perhaps overpay McGary to start next season so he could end up cashing in over the next few days.   

19. Miles Sanders (Running Back) 

He is coming off an outstanding season with over 1200 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns behind that dominant Eagles offensive line. 

He is a good player but do I think he would be as successful outside of Philley? Truthfully, I don’t but I could see the Raiders going for a veteran if they are not able to re-sign Jacobs at the running back position. I also expect the Bengals to upgrade at running back if they part ways with Joe Mixon. 

20. Jacobi Myers (Wide Receiver) 

Myers was the best receiver for the Patriots last season but they have a habit of letting free agents walk rather than offering them long term deals once they are off their rookie contracts. 

He lined up primarily as a slot receiver but also has speed for the outside. He is best remembered last season for throwing a last gasp touchdown pass to the Raiders Chandler Jones in a gaffe of epic proportions. A decent route runner who is able to win contested catches, it  will be interesting to see where Myers ends up and how much he will go for in this year’s market. 

21. Jacoby Brissett (QB)

Brissett showed he was a starting calibre QB for the Browns last season and he will sign with a team in need of a QB who can compete for a starting position but is unlikely to get a long term contract at the position. 

That will most likely be behind a young rookie and possibly for a team that drafts a rookie QB in this year’s draft. I could also see a team like the Commanders or Falcons signing him as a backup to QBs entering the sophomore seasons in the NFL. The Bucs are a team who made the postseason so do not have a high enough position to draft high this year and might target Brissett on a lucrative deal where they can jump ship after one or two years. 

22. Kareem Hunt (Running back)

Kareem Hunt is a starting calibre running back who has been underused in Cleveland. Last season his conditioning was poor and he seemed slower than the dynamic player he had been in the first few years in the NFL. He is a running back that seems to enjoy contact and is the type of player who can will himself to make a first down when it is most needed. Certainly an underrated player in my book with a lot of tread left on the tyres.

23. Andrew Wylie (Tackle) 

Another Super Bowl winning tackle is hitting free agency and he will improve most of the teams in the NFL

He should have a lot of teams interested in his services with possibly the 49ers a viable option if he decides to try and go to another contender. Especially as they have two QBs on rookie deals. The Jags could also be a realistic option.    

24. Allen Lazard (Wide Receiver) 

Lazard proved his worth to Aaron Rodgers last season and he was the primary target on third downs. I would guess his time at Green Bay will be influenced by what happens with Rodgers, with him possibly following the future Hall of Fame QB to a new destination. 

Should Rodgers stay at the Packers then expect Lazard to follow suit. 

25. Rashad Penny (Running Back) 

Penny was having an excellent season in Seattle until injury took away his season. It has been a familiar fate for the athletic running back who has had trouble keeping available throughout his rookie contract. 

When he is fit he is a dynamic player and I could see him coming into a team to work in tandem with an established running back. 

Averaging 5.7 yards a carry over his career in the NFL, he could be a diamond of a signing if he can stay healthy. He will also cost less due to his injury history. I could see the Giants taking a punt on a player who could spell Saquon at times during games or the Rams who need all the help they can get at the position.

Top 5 Super Bowl Ads 

By David McDonnell 

This year it cost up to $7 million for a 30 second ad in the Superbowl. 

Money well spent? We’ll let you judge for yourselves as we give you the top five commercials after some excruciating research. Excruciating because there are some terrible ads to sit through as well.  

For everyone, especially those who don’t live Stateside , we ranked the five commercials from Sunday Night’s game.

5. Beer Fight

Because it had some originality and humour. 

4. Does Ben Stiller love the taste of Pepsi?

3. Woof, Cry, Woof.

Gets bronze only because there is no link to football.  

2. Run With It

Love the cameos, especially Aiden Hutchinson and Cam Hayward. 

  1. Do you like the taste of apples? 

Here is an extra one: 

Breaking Greatness to sell out for a Super Bowl commercial :

Monday Morning SuperBowl Report

By David McDonnell 

As Super Bowls go, this was an absolute classic. 

This game had many twists and turns and those that lapped up the late night coffee were rewarded with a game for the ages

If you went to bed and missed watching America’s greatest export into the wee hours of morning, here is how SuperBowl 57 unfolded.  

First Half 

In hindsight, we were given a glimpse of what was to come when both the Eagles and Chiefs scored touchdowns on their opening possessions. Jalen Hurts first punched it in from one yard, before Mahomes responded by finding Travis Kelce for their usual touchdown. 

Second Quarter 

The Eagles dominated possession in the opening two quarters and they were winning the battle in the trenches by running the ball behind their O-Line. Hurts was outstanding and dictated the action from the pocket and soon put to sleep any worries about his recent shoulder injury. In the second quarter he found AJ Brown with a deep ball for a touchdown. 

When the Eagles forced a three and out and got the ball back, they looked to add to their lead but a fumble by Hurts resulted in Nick Bolton returning the ball to level the scores at 14-14. 

Hurts responded to his mistake by leading his team up the field and he took off on a run to give Philly first and goal. One play later he ran into the endzone, after getting a great block by Jason Kelce, for his second rushing touchdown of the game. 

Mahomes tried to respond in a two minute drill, but after getting tackled on a third down, he limped off the field and looked in pain on the sideline. 

At this point everything seemed to be going Philly’s way and Jake Elliot added a field goal to give the Eagles a 10-point lead at half-time. 

Second Half 

After Rhianna’s performance, the Chiefs changed strategy as they only had just over eight minutes of possession from the allotted 30 in the opening half. It became obvious from the opening drive of the second half that they were going to commit more to their rushing attack.

Rookie running back Isiah Pacheco ran hard every chance he got and finished that first drive of the third quarter with a touchdown. 

Nick Bolton then looked to have recovered another fumble for a touchdown but the score was chalked off somewhat controversially in my opinion. 

Hurts responded with his best drive of the game, which included his best pass of the contest to Dallas Goedert on third and 14, which was ruled a catch even after a challenge flag was thrown by Andy Reid.

The Chiefs defence got a big stop on third down in the red zone and the Eagles had to settle for a kick at goal, which gave Philly a six-point lead at the end of the third quarter. 

Fourth Quarter 

Kansas City responded by throwing to Jerrick McKinnon in the backfield which gave Mahomes shorter third downs to complete, which he converted by throwing quick strikes to Juju Smith-Schuster.  

The Chiefs then took the lead with 12 minutes remaining when Kadarius Toney, a mid season pick up from the Giants, was left on his own for a simple touchdown as the Eagles swallowed the bait of too many DBs trying to cover Travis Kelce. 

Ninety seconds later, a huge punt return by Toney saw the Chiefs knocking on the door once again. This was the paly of the game.

This time Mahomes found rookie Skyy Moore for a very similar touchdown to the previous one but on the other side of the hashes. 

Hurts got the ball trailing by eight points and led another magnificent drive which saw him connect with a deep ball to Devonta Smith. Hurts then ran in for another touchdown from close range and also ran in for the two point conversion to tie the game 35-35 with just over five minutes remaining. 

The game was in the melting pot and two minutes later, Mahomes caught everyone by surprise when he took off on a run upfield on his injured foot. 

Soon after on third down, Mahomes threw an incomplete pass towards Smith-Schuster but corner-back James Bradberry was flagged for a tug on Juju, which gave the Chiefs a fresh set of downs with under two minutes to play.

On first and goal, McKinnon then had a chance to score a touchdown but knowing the Eagles were out of timeouts, grounded the ball at the one yard line. 

This was a great example of situational awareness as it took almost 90 seconds off the clock and gave his teammate Harrison Butker a chance to win the Superbowl with a chip shot field goal. 

Butker did his duty and with it the Kansas City Chiefs won the Superbowl with Patrick Mahomes named as SuperBowl MVP.

To the victor go the spoils. 

This SuperBowl will be talked about for a long time to come. Overall, it was the highly entertaining game that the 38-35 scoreline suggests.

A lot of the credit has to go to Head Coach Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who adjusted their game plan at half time. By getting the Eagles defence to run from sideline to sideline, in the end they couldn’t put enough pressure on Mahomes on passing downs. 

The much vaunted Eagles defence, who led the NFL in sacks this season,  didn’t record one in the Super Bowl and it was a major factor in them losing a game. 

Huge credit must also go to the Chiefs O-Line who gave Mahomes a clean pocket all game and in the end the Chiefs QB brought home the bacon. 

Best SuperBowl Rookies

By Conor Perrett

These two rookies have played an important part in getting their team to compete and now stand just one away from lifting the Lombardi Trophy. 


RB Isaiah Pacheco (7th Round) 

When Pacheco was selected with the 251st pick in the draft, there was probably no intention for him to make the impact he did in his rookie season. With 4.3 40-yard speed, Pacheco looked to be a return specialist that could also be a speedy piece in the backfield. 

That speedy piece has proved his worth and it was Week 1 when he started to make impacts with a rushing touchdown. It wasn’t soon after that Pacheco had beaten out the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and was announced the starter by Week 7. From there, Pacheco grew into his role with 960 scrimmage yards on the season, leading NFL rookies and the most yards in NFL history from a seventh-round pick in his rookie year. He is coming off two excellent Post season performances in reaching the SuperBowl.


S Reed Blankenship (UDFA)

When you are as successful as Philly, it’s hard for rookies to make an immediate impact on the team. In Blankenship’s case he was the next man to step up when C.J. Gardner-Johnson went down mid-season and paved a way onto the starting defence.

Blankenship is the only rookie on this list to go undrafted, but that shouldn’t qualify how talented he is. Collecting 34 tackles, two pass breakups, and one INT, he started the season as No. 4 safety, but soon earned the right to No. 3 and got starting thanks to injuries. Gardner-Johnson soon returned but coaches still wanted the undrafted rookie on the field. Blankenship now comes into the lineup when the Eagles move into nickel, and will likely play a key role in the Superbowl 

My Super Bowl Preview

By David McDonnell 

In boxing they say that styles make fights. 

Tonight’s Super Bowl sees the Chiefs, a team that has passed for the most yards in NFL history against the Eagles, the best team at running the ball in the NFL, so we are in for an intriguing matchup. 

The Big Show kicks off at 11.30 pm (GMT) so let’s investigate how this game might go. 

Eagles Offense v Chiefs Defence

This Eagles O-Line has bullied most comers throughout the season, and I thought before the NFC Championship game that they would finally meet their match against the excellent 49ers defence. That didn’t come to pass and Philly ran in four rushing touchdowns in what turned out to be another dominant display.

The Kansas defence possesses this season’s best Defensive Tackle in Chris Jones and have two linebackers in Nick Bolton and Willie Gay that are excellent against the run. The Chiefs defended very well against the rush in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals, and Cincinnati running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine hardly made any impression on proceedings.

If they can stop the Eagles running the ball, then they are likely to win the game. However, that is easier said than done. 

I also believe the Eagles have a matchup advantage with their wide receiving duo, AJ Brown and Devonta Smith, going against two rookie corners in the impressive Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams. Coming off the best game of his young career against the Bengals, it is the latter Williams that I feel can be exposed by the route running of Smith and by the speed and athleticism of Brown. 

The Eagles will test this out through use of play action to take shots down the field on whoever is matching up against Williams being the likely target. Kansas defensive back L’Jarius Sneed has been out recently but his return could be a massive shot in the arm for their defensive backs. 

The Chiefs are also below league average defending against tight-ends this season and I expect to see the Eagles target Dallas Goedert on key third downs and in the red zone on Sunday night. He would be a decent tip to score the first touchdown at 12-1. 

So it seems like the Eagles attack have all the advantages heading into this game. What can go wrong? 

The big question mark I have about the Eagles offence centres around the health of Jalen Hurts. 

Last time out Hurts looked to me that his shoulder injury was affecting him hugely and after that early throw for Smith’s one-handed grab against the 49ers, he didn’t make a throw of note for the rest of the game.

He was even running into traffic instead of checking down to open receivers in the last quarter of the NFC Championship game and although he has had two weeks to rest and rehab, I remain unconvinced he is anywhere as sharp as he was during the season. 

If he can’t throw then it will have a major bearing on the game, as Kansas City will be able to pack the box and concentrate more on defending the run. I expect to see a lot of run option plays and RPOs in order to get Hurts to use his biggest weapon, his legs and he might very well run for over 100 yards in this game. 

Hurts shoulder, just like Patrick Mahomes ankle, seemed to bother him later in the game, probably when the effect of the pain shots began to wear off. This might become more evident in the Super Bowl as there is a 50 minute half time show with Rihanna, so the pain meds might lose their effect sooner than a usual Sunday Night Football game. Something to keep an eye on. 

Chiefs Offence v Eagles Defence

The Chiefs have the best quarterback in the NFL coming off his best season and arguably the best ever tight end coming off his best season, so they definitely have a chance, especially if QB Patrick Mahomes is over his sprained ankle injury which I suspect he will  be. 

Mahomes won the league MVP during the week and has the ability to win matches on his own if he is afforded time in the pocket to dictate play. He has improved his game this season by becoming better and finding all his receiving options, which makes the Chiefs very difficult to defend against.

However, outside of Kelce at tight-end, they don’t have a blue-chip receiver although Marquez Valdes Scantling stepped up in a massive way last time out and is the only wideout who regularly wins contested catches along the sideline. 

Juju Smith Schuster missed most of the last match but will likely be passing option number three in the slot. If he is fit Juju could figure strongly especially as Kelce is likely to be double marked throughout the contest. Juju is tall for a slot receiver and Mahomes often throws his way when he needs to get the ball out quickly. 

I think another player who could feature more than he has recently is running back Jerrick McKinnon.  I expect the Chiefs to have difficulty running the ball against a very deep and talented Eagles defensive front so I can see Andy Reid getting Mahomes to pass the ball wide to McKinnon out the backfield in order to stretch the field. 

The Eagles lost their first game this season in Week 10, when the Washington Commanders ran the ball against them 49 times. The following week, Howie Roseman brought in veteran pair Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph who have 13 years of NFL experience each. I expect the Eagles to be able to halt the Chiefs rushing attack and the Chiefs will answer by putting the ball in Mahomes hands even more than they usually would. 

The Chiefs do have an excellent O-Line but with the Eagles able to change their front five to keep them fresh, they will eventually be able to tee off with their talented pass rushers led by Haason Reddick against Mahomes. 

The MVP QB will need to produce the magic but he is certainly capable of this. 


The big question in deciding who will win the SuperBowl is: Will the Chiefs defence be able to stop the Eagles rushing attack for 60 minutes? 

My gut tells me no, and that is why I believe Philly has the significant advantage.  In my opinion, the Chiefs would need two Chris Jones to stop this Eagles O-Line from dominating and unfortunately they only have one. 

Although I won’t be cheering for the Eagles, mainly due to being a Washington fan and Patrick Mahomes being my favourite player to watch in the NFL,  I do believe the Eagles will be Superbowl champions in the early hours of Sunday morning. 

Chiefs 20-30 Eagles 

SuperBowl 58 Preview: Chiefs vs Eagles

By Conor Perrett 

The SuperBowl is the biggest event in North America, and this year both No. 1 seeds from the AFC and NFC will take each other on.

This match-up is an interesting one, with the MVP Patrick Mahomes being an underdog for the first time in his 10th playoff game. We know both teams have high powered offences, but it may be a battle on defence that wins their team a new ring.

With kick-off scheduled for 11.30pm tonight (GMT) for folks in Ireland and the UK , prepare yourself for a late one as it should be a battle throughout.

No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia has been the most impressive team throughout the regular season and deserve their place in the SuperBowl. On paper their roster is superior, with an array of talent all over the offence and defence.

With injuries to Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson I thought this offence would struggle to maintain the consistency we saw previously, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem. If I wanted to nit-pick then the passing game has looked a bit weak, but with their two previous matchups basically being over after the first quarter, I can’t blame them for turning to the run game.

The run game has been the catalyst to the Eagles success, with the ability to run many options due to the athleticism they have at the QB position. Philly lacks an out-and-out No. 1 running back, but with different kinds of talent in their room, they can put themselves in the right position to succeed.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Philly’s D-Line: The Eagles’ defensive line was a force against the 49ers two weeks ago and Haason Reddick’s sack to force a fumble, and destroy Brock Purdy’s elbow, may have been what won them the game.

Philly has depth all over the line and with 70 sacks this season, that’s the third most in NFL history since the league started counting sacks in 1982. 

Philly’s defensive line has wreaked havoc during the playoffs and the only time Mahomes has lost in the playoffs was when he faced a Buccaneers D-line that caused him issues.  

No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs are no strangers to playing in the Super Bowl these days, but like I mentioned earlier this is the first time Patrick Mahomes will be an underdog in a playoff game. Kansas has always had the luxury of being an offence that overpowers everybody but this matchup in particular will be a test.

Mahomes is the best player in football and Andy Reid may also own that title for play-calling, but with the talent that this Eagles defence have, it’s hard to see where this Chiefs’ offence will take advantage.

As for the defence, they put on a great showing in the Conference Championship that no one really saw coming. They contained Joe Burrow all night with a strong defensive line performance and when they needed to get a stop at the end, they did so. It will be a struggle to get past this Philly O-line that is the best in football, but stopping that run will be their best chance at it.

Matchup to keep an eye on – Travis Kelce vs Philly’s pass defence: Travis Kelce is one half of the Kelce brothers in this game and he may be Mahomes’ only weapon. Kelce is regarded as the best tight-end in the league and it’s thanks to his receiving ability from the position that makes him so good.

With 21 catches and three touchdowns in just the two playoff appearances so far, Kelce has dominated his matchups against the Jaguars and Bengals. But now he will face the best pass defence in the country. The Eagles have members all over the secondary, but with their best two corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry playing on the outside, they may have to get creative to stop this future hall of famer.

Previous Matchups

2021 Season:

Week 4 – Chiefs @ Eagles, 42-30 Chiefs Win

These two last met during Week 4 of last season in a high scoring shootout game. Back then Nick Sirianni was in his first year with the team and this loss put them 1-3 for the season. A lot has changed in that year though, with general manager Howie Roseman transforming the team. The Eagles at the start of this season had been leaking points on defence, but now find themselves a year on in the Super Bowl with a top-2 defence in the league.

Super Bowl Prediction

We’ve finally got here and with this being the last prediction of the season it’s not a simple one. 

Both teams have had a hell of a journey to get to this point but only one can win so let me give you my thoughts.

The Chiefs have always been strong offensively, and after seeing their defensive performance two weeks ago it makes it even tougher to not back the MVP winner. 

I like how the Chiefs are looking on both sides of the trenches and Isiash Pacheco looks like an incredible weapon despite being a 7th-round pick less than a year ago. What I worry about for this team is how they will fare in the passing game. 

Their wide-receivers in particular look a bit weaker than we are used to, yet saying that; this team was still comfortably the No. 1 offence in the league during the regular season. Travis Kelce is the main threat but Kansas will need another receiver to step up and cause some trouble if they want to break Philly’s defence.

While on the other side in Philadelphia, on paper everything looks in their favour. They have the better roster, been better consistently and even the more impressive wins during the playoffs. The only real knock you can make for this side is the path they have had to face to get here. Many with me included will look at the Giants and a quarter-backless 49ers’ as a walk in the park for them, with some in the national media calling it a ‘Big 12’ schedule. 

Granted in the playoffs that seems the case, but during the regular season they had no easy ride. On strength of schedule they ranked 1st in ‘opponents win percentage’ and before their injuries late on that caused a speed bump, they were the best regular season team throughout. 

So as you can imagine in a grand final, both teams are extremely talented in their craft. If we want to look at the superstitions surrounding the ‘white jersey conspiracy’ then the Chiefs will hold that in their favour.

I believe this game will be slightly dominated by the defences with it being on the lower side of scoring, so if you’re looking for a bet go for the under on total points scored.

As for my final prediction, I feel more confident in this Eagles roster but it’s hard to go against the best player and coach in this game. At the end of the day I could go back and forth on the winner, however I see more scenarios in which this Eagles’ defence will win the game.

I believe they will be disruptive in both trenches and while they may not be consistent on offence, will make enough plays to get themselves in scoring positions and let the defence work its magic.

Chiefs 20-24 Eagles

The QB and Coaching Carousel 

By David McDonnell

Welcome back to the ‘Six Points for a Touchdown’ column.

This week I am going to bang on about three quarterbacks, two of which are almost certainly heading to free agency and I’ll also give my opinion on some of the more recent coaching hires in the NFL.

So lets get to it.

Hut, Hut!!


  1. Test driving Derek Carr 

Derek Carr is taking the Saints for a test drive in New Orleans today. 

It made me chortle when it broke last night that the Las Vegas Raiders gave Carr ‘permission’ to speak to the NFC South franchise, considering in seven days they have to release him as a free agent or pay him $41 million dollars.

Even though they excluded him from football duties for the last two weeks of the regular season, it was spun by both camps that him sitting on the bench would be a distraction for the team, as if benching a player or even a quarterback at that was somehow uncommon in the NFL.

The Raiders showed him the door and they they won’t be paying him next week. Carr is out because he had an average season and was evidentiary a poor fit for Josh McDaniels’ offence. He couldn’t spin gold with Josh Jacobs excelling at running back and a host of talented receivers.

H did get the ball with regularity to Devante Adams, but it was mainly off play action, and he particular missed the talent of Hunter Renfrow in the slot and tight end Darren Waller in the red zone for large chunks of the season.

Carr will have plenty of suitors. I would also add the Bucs, who need someone to step into Tom Brady sized shoes in Tampa Bay as well as the aforementioned Saints. If Carr goes to the Saints, it leaves the Bucs in a similar pickle to where New Orleans have been since Drew Brees retired.  I can also see the Commanders and the Jets being two others with a preference for a veteran under centre.

It will be interesting, which way the Raiders will approach the quarterback position in the off season.

If they stump for a rookie QB with the seventh overall pick in the draft, it will allow the franchise to build up a roster over four or five years that has a lot of holes on both sides of the ball. Or they might pluck for one of the next two veterans on this list. 

  1. Rodgers joins the Dark Side?

The Green Bay Packers have a similar decision to make regarding Aaron Rodgers. 

Will they push their chips into the middle of the table once again with the future Hall of Famer or is this when this oft rocky marriage is parked once and for all? 

When I read that Aaron Rodgers is spending a number of nights attending a darkness retreat to figure out whether to play for the Packers, retire or to play somewhere else next season, I thought it was an obvious joke. However, it seems to be true and I think all three are viable possibilities and I would guess in that order.

I am not sure if the decision will be solely his to make.

The Packers need to make a decision this offseason on whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Jordan Love, the QB they surprisingly took in the first round in 2020. He has been a forgotten man in the NFL save for a nine-minute cameo this season against the Eagles where he found Christian Watson for an impressive touchdown.

Should Green Bay not pick up his fifth year, then it will be a public admittance of wasting a first round pick on a player without really giving him much of a chance to play. This decision could also leave the Packers entering the 2024 season without a QB.

I think it’s least likely Rodgers will play for another team but should he do so I could see him picking the Raiders and pairing up again with Davante Adams. Rodgers in a Raiders jersey would be a sight to behold.  Another AFC team that would be interested in his services are the Jets, who have his former QB coach in Nathaniel Hackett installed as offensive coordinator and more importantly, a Superbowl-ready defence. 

  1. Jimmy to make a few G’s

I have never been a huge fan of Jimmy Garoppolo, but he will get a starting job in the NFL next season and he will get well paid to do so too, after coming off arguably the best season of his career.

He has previous connections to Josh McDaniels, having played under his tutelage in New England, while two former 49ers Defensive Coordinators are head coaches in Robert Salah and DeMeco Ryans in New York and Houston respectively. Especially if Carr ends up in New Orleans, I wouldn’t be surprised if Garoppolo comes in to replace Tom Brady at the Buccaneers. 

However, if I was to call it, I think Jimmy G ends up at the Jets. 


  1. DeMeco Ryans

I believe the Texans knocked it out of the park with the hiring of DeMeco Ryans as head coach. It is a great fit for both for a number of reasons.

He is young, smart and energetic, with a boatload of NFL experience and he is coming off being the defensive coordinator for the best defence in the NFL this season with the San Francisco 49ers. 

He also knows the Texans franchise intimately, as one of their former outstanding players, where he won Defensive Rookie of the Year as a linebacker in 2006 before securing All Pro honours in 2007. 

The Texans, especially in the prime JJ Watt years, were regarded as having one of the best defences in football and it has become a part of the fabric of how the club is viewed around the world. Having a defensive emphasis at the head coaching position suits how they want to play football.

It really seemed from the outside that the Texans head coaching position looked like a poison chalice after the last two head coaches were fired after only a year in the job. I thought in particular Lovie Smith being fired a few hours after the season ended was unfair considering the Texans were highly competitive in most games this year with a relatively poor and unbalanced roster. 

The GM Nick Caserio worked in building a squad in New England with Bill Billichick so working with a coach with a penchant for defensive players is something already in his wheelhouse and it’s encouraging that Ryans has signed a six-year contract, which should hinder him being shopped after a year or two.

Additionally, there is a lot of defensive talent on the Texans roster that Caserio has brought to Houston since his arrival.

Roy Lopez is a very competitive D-Tackle, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2021, while Houston added Derek Stingley Jr and the outstanding Jalen Pitre to their defensive backs in the first two rounds as well as linebacker Christian Harris in the third round during the 2022 NFL draft.  

This is a good core of excellent young players to build a defence around. 

They will need to add talent to their D line, but with the second overall pick. I would not be surprised if they go defence if and when a team leaps ahead of them to trade for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.  

I think this is how the draft is likely to play out as the Chicago Bears already have an impressive young QB in Justin Fields and they could acquire a king’s ransom by trading down.

Should that happen, that second overall pick could go to Young’s Alabama teammate Will Anderson, who had 207 total QB pressures during his three years playing for the Crimson Tide. For a recent comparison, the second overall pick last year Aiden Hutchinson had 128 QB pressures during his four years in Michigan.

  1.  Payton’s fits the Broncos

Sean Payton certainly looks a step in the right direction for the Broncos and I think for Russell Wilson as well. 

Denver is stuck with Wilson, coming off the worst season of his NFL career, for at least another two seasons with his salary guaranteed. Payton will suit Russ because just like Wilson, he is used to working with a smaller sized QB in Drew Brees.

Let me extrapolate this point. 

Payton likes his QBs to get the ball out quickly and Russ earlier in his career used brag about playing like a point guard in basketball. This is how Payton will want him to play with the addition of being comfortable throwing the deep shot downfield, which was certainly in Wilson’s wheelhouse in Seattle. 

Payton was great at scheming lanes for Brees to throw down the centre of the field which should help a smaller QB like Wilson. Expect young tight end Greg Dulcich’s targets to go up in this scheme next season.

Another trait of Payton is to have talented pass-catching running backs who can line up as a wide receiver. Think Darren Sproles or Alvin Kamara and he also uses a varied screen game to allow the QB to dump the ball off in the backfield. 

A worry I have about Wilson is his conditioning.

In my opinion, and I have wrote this during the season, Russ is carrying too much weight for a quarterback under six feet. He is too built up and is built like a linebacker.

This knock on effect is that he is slower to move in the pocket and he can’t get away from opposing pass rushers. When he was starting his career in Seattle, he great at extending plays by his movement and was a weapon at picking up first downs with his legs. 

An improvement in his mobility could see him return as one of the top QBs in the league, but for this to happen he needs to spend less time in the gym and more time on the track.

  1. Steve Wilks and Brian Flores

I will be rooting for Steve Wilks, who has taken over as Defensive Coordinator in San Francisco. For me, he earned the shot to be the head coach in Carolina after turning the ship around last season as interim coach. He may have to wait a year to get his just desserts on that front.

Brian Flores has a good opportunity to show the NFL what a great coach he is as well after being named DC at the Vikings. Again this seems to me a great hire but it is a much more difficult challenge to get the Minnesota defence to put fear into the opposition like he did with his former Miami Dolphins.

If he can achieve this over the next year or two, then we can expect the Vikes back in the playoffs next season and hopefully Flores will get another turn as an NFL head coach.

This week I’ll kick for one.

7. Jim Harbaugh to the Colts?

I want to see Jim Harbaugh back in the NFL.

He is another excellent coach who has been missed in the National Football League.

I can see the Colts tipping their hat to Harbaugh. He has an advantage being a former player but I also think he is the type of coach, Colts owner Jim Irsay would strive to have prowling the sideline with his explosive and combative disposition.

Harbaugh was a hell of a coach during his time with the 49ers and they mirrored his super competitive nature. He is box office entertainment at times and the NFL is a more fantastic place with him in it.

If I was an owner and needed a head coach, Jim Harbaugh would be at the top of my shortlist.

Six points for a Touchdown Column

By David McDonnell

I’m trying out a new column format this week to muse about last weekend’s AFC and NFC Championship games. 

  1. Bengals v Chiefs

The Bengals O-line got a lot of credit in the divisional round against the Bills for their ability to run the ball and I expected Cincinnati to take a similar approach last Sunday. But credit must go to the Kansas City rush defence. Even now I can’t remember Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine getting much traction with their ground game and that is simply because they didn’t.

With their run game stifled, we also found out on Sunday that down three starting linemen, the Bengals O-line couldn’t protect Burrow in the pocket against the Chiefs pass rush. I suggest that this was the reason why the three players who came in hadn’t been starting all season and this was evident from the first quarter. The Chiefs had five sacks on Burrow, which hugely influenced the game both at the start and at the end of this contest. 

With less time under centre, Burrow adjusted by getting the ball out quicker and the lack of the rushing game limited the threat of play action for Burrow to hit deep balls down the field.  

2. Chris Jones

Chris Jones beat the banged up Bengal offensive line almost on his own last night.

Credit must go to Steve Spagnuolo for putting his best linemen directly against the backups and Jones was difficult to pick up by coming at Joe Burrow from the right and left Defensive End positions on that last drive when they needed him to make a play.  

In hindsight, Cincinnati will be kicking themselves that Jones wasn’t double teamed on those passing plays, especially in that fourth quarter, and he was the difference that made the difference helping the Chiefs to the conference title.

There will be a huge amount of pressure on Chris Jones to replicate this performance in the Super Bowl and he will need to if Kansas City wants to give themselves a chance to stop this Philly attack. If the Eagles can double team him on passing downs, I don’t see anyone else on the Chiefs D-Line routinely beating a blocker and getting to Hurts on a regular basis.

3. Kansas O-Line

The Chiefs offensive line was outstanding on the night and provided Patrick Mahomes with a clean pocket throughout the game.

Kansas O-line gave Mahomes a clean pocket all night.

The only time the Bengals got a turnover was when Mahomes fumbled the ball in the third quarter, which I believe he would have recovered if his leg sprain wasn’t an issue.

Mahomes was down a number of receiving options but when he couldn’t go to Kelce, he had the time to pick out Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who stepped up in a major way when the team really needed him. 

The Bengals defence is full of top competitors and for the most part they didn’t give up many big plays to the Chiefs rushing attack although Isaiah Pacheco ran angry every time he got the ball. However, the Bengals D-Line didn’t come close to getting a sack on a limping Mahomes throughout the contest. In my opinion, this more than anything else cost them the game and adding pass-rushing talent is an area where Cincinnati should upgrade in the off-season, possibly in free agency while Burrow is still on his rookie contract.

49ers v Eagles 

4. Eagles O-Line

Pregame I was very excited by the prospect of Philly O-Line and the San Fran D-Line going toe-to-toe. The Philly front five have bullied almost all comers this season but I thought that this 49ers defence would really test this dominant Eagles run game.

In the first half, the 49ers conceded three rushing touchdowns. The Eagles O-Line especially in the red zone were supremely dominant and Miles Sanders ran in almost untouched for the first two scores. It showed every what a behemoth this offensive line has become. 

However, upon closer inspection the 49ers defence made a better fist of it as they held all three of the Eagles running backs under four yards per carry throughout the game. Two of the Philly touchdowns came from preventable field positions.

The first was Devonta Smith’s unbelievable one-handed catch that brought play inside the 10-yard line in the first quarter. If Kyle Shanahan had thrown the red flag then that catch would have been negated as he lost control bringing it to the ground. The third touchdown was when Josh Johnson fumbled the snap, which again put the Eagles in the Redzone for a touchdown before half time. 

5. Hurts Hurt

Although Jalen Hurts directed traffic, it looked to me like that shoulder injury is bothering him a lot more than he is letting on. I think you can tell from his demeanor and body language and the fact that he attempted to throw the ball less than he has all season.His only throw of note was that deep ball ‘caught’ spectacularly by Smith and I suspect he was running into traffic late in the game because it hurt him to throw the ball.

With the Chiefs having two rookies playing at corner against the Bengals and the Eagles should have a matchup advantage with the caliber of Smith and AJ Brown at wideout.

However, Hurts shoulder, just like Patrick Mahomes leg, seemed to bother him more later in game. I hope the two weeks are enough for both QBs to rest and rehab their injuries, so we will see the best of them in the Superbowl.

6. QB’s Injury

There is no way of knowing what difference Brock Purdy would have made had he stayed injury free, but the game would certainly have been more of a contest.

If you look at the injury to both Purdy and Josh Johnson, they came off similar plays where the impressive Hassan Reddick blocked down on the throwing arm of the QB.

This kind of play is being coached more in my opinion as a result of flags being thrown when a defensive player gets a proper hit on the quarterback, and I suspect we will see more of these types of injuries going forward. 

This week I’ll go for a two-point conversion:

7. Playing Politics

Being on the Non-American side of the Atlantic, I wasn’t aware that the Mayor of Cincinnati had said anything derogatory about the Chiefs until he was name dropped by Travis Kelce at the trophy presentation for the AFC Championship, where he told the politician to “know your role and shut your mouth.”

This coming from Travis Kelce whose roles include playing tight end and podcasting every week. 

So curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up.

Mayor Aftab Pureval said: “Joseph Lee Burrow, who’s 3-0 against Mahomes, has been asked by officials to take a paternity test confirming whether or not he’s his father.”

Okay as jokes go, it was poorly timed and maybe Kelce had a point.

One thing for certain is that the Chiefs players used every bit of fuel they were fed all week, including Mike Hilton telling the Chiefs fans they would see them in ‘Burrowhead.’ 

I have never seen a group of players taking a joke about the name of a stadium so personally but it goes to show that even at the highest level of sport, players will use every bit of fuel in order to get the best out of themselves. This is true even for the biggest games that you would assume requires no bulletin board motivation.  

It was also interesting that as the week went on, that there was a turning of the tide of public opinion in the bookies.  The Chiefs, having started the week as underdogs became favourites. and I believe it was because people could sense that showing a lack of respect to your opponent would come back to bite you on the ass. As it did.

8. The Kelce Family

Speaking of Travis Kelce, it is an amazing achievement that both he and his older brother Jason are playing each other in the Super Bowl. What a proud moment  for the Kelce family.

The fact that they are both two of the standout players for their respective teams and both coming off their best seasons of their careers makes the story and achievement all the more noteworthy.

I don’t believe it has ever happened before and I doubt we will see this again for a very long time. 

As I mentioned earlier, they have a weekly podcast, @newheightshow, which we often retweet on our twitter feed, @Smingfootball, and it should be worth checking out this week of all weeks as the brothers focus on the Super Bowl and entertain with tales of football and their sibling rivalry.

Championship Teams Best Rookies

By Conor Perrett

Here are the best rookies from the four teams in the NFC and AFC Championship games.


Philadelphia Eagles

Safety Reed Blankenship (UDFA): When you are as successful as Philly, it’s hard for rookies to make an immediate impact on the team. In Blankenship’s case he was the next man to step up when C.J. Gardner-Johnson went down mid-season and paved a way onto the starting defence.

Blankenship is the only rookie on this list to go undrafted, but that shouldn’t qualify how talented he is. Collecting 34 tackles, two pass breakups, and one INT, he started the season as No. 4 safety, but soon earned the right to No. 3 and got starting thanks to injuries. Gardner-Johnson soon returned but coaches still wanted the undrafted rookie on the field. Blankenship now comes into the lineup when the Eagles move into nickel, and will likely still play a key role in Philly’s playoff run. 

San Francisco 49ers

QB Brock Purdy (7th Round): That seventh-round rookie I just mentioned shouldn’t be taken as a negative and despite starting the season as the third-string QB, Purdy is the man of the hour in San Francisco right now. Being the last pick in the draft can be embarrassing when the title ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ comes into play, but Purdy has almost won it as a badge of honour.

Making his first appearance for San Fran, during their massive ‘Master vs Student’ game against Miami in Week 13, Purdy came in to replace Jimmy G mid-game and hasn’t looked back since. Brock has a sense of confidence you rarely see in a rookie QB, let alone one taken at pick 262 in the NFL Draft. His passer rating of 107.3 is the best amongst quarterbacks in the span of his first snap and he caused serious confusion on what the 49ers might do at the QB position next season,  which will have the third overall pick from 2021 Draft Trey Lance vying to start. 


Kansas City Chiefs

Running Back Isaiah Pacheco (7th Round): When Pacheco was selected with the 251st pick in the draft, there was probably no intention for him to make the impact he did in his rookie season. With 4.3 40-yard speed, Pacheco looked to be a return specialist that could also be a speedy piece in the backfield. 

That speedy piece has proved his worth and it was Week 1 when he started to make impacts with a rushing touchdown. It wasn’t soon after that Pacheco had beaten out the likes of Clyde Edwards-Helaire and was announced the starter by Week 7. From there, Pacheco grew into his role with 960 scrimmage yards on the season, leading NFL rookies and the most yards in NFL history from a seventh-round pick in his rookie year

Cincinatti Bengals

Guard: Cordell Volson (4th Round): Much like the best teams in the NFL, the Bengals didn’t have too many rookies contributors on the team. Their first-round pick Dax Hill didn’t see the field too often, but left-guard Volson played in every offensive snap.

The Bengals’ offensive-line has been a problem over the years, but it gradually improved over the course of the season. For a Day 3 pick to make the contribution he has on a Super Bowl contender, should be seen as an enormous achievement, and his confidence should keep growing.

AFC Championship: Bengals v Chiefs 

By David McDonnell

It’s no great surprise to me that the AFC Championship game has come down once again to the Bengals versus the Chiefs.  (kickoff 11.30 pm GMT)

There are plenty of good teams in the AFC but what separates these two from the rest of the pretenders is their quarterbacks, Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes. Both have the ability to throw the ball accurately and consistently beat the opposition from the pocket when the pressure is greatest, which is where Josh Allen came unstuck last weekend in my opinion.

I cannot wait for this game to begin and I really can’t say with any authority which way this game will go, but I’ll give it a try all the same. 

The Bengals certainly caught the Bills defence off guard last weekend with their ability to run the ball, while down three of their starting linemen and the front office in Cincinnati deserve recognition for their forward thinking in reinforcing their O-Line with talent in addition to the number of costly acquisitions during the off-season. 

The Bills defence struggled all day trying to stop Joe Mixon and it gave Burrow the platform to dictate their offence. This worked especially well as the Bengals had gotten themselves into an early lead with two early touchdowns and they will intend for a similar approach this weekend. If this happens we could have a shootout on our hands.

However, fore-warned is fore-armed and I would expect the Chiefs defence to be ready to defend against the run and try to force the Bengals into longer third downs. Nick Bolton is a hard hitting linebacker in Kansas and it will be interesting if they can take him away from the box on early running downs by making him pick up a slot receiver or Hayden Hurst at tight-end. 

Having a plan in one thing, but the difficulty with these Bengals is that they have an array of weapons to choose from if Burrow is given time in the pocket. 

He has two outstanding receivers in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins and with it, the Bengals have a match-up advantage in both speed, height and athleticism on both sides of their attack. I expect Burrow will go to both at key stages, especially if and when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter. 

If the Chiefs can’t get pressure on Burrow in the pocket, they are unlikely to win but with an average of 3.2 sacks per game, they are certainly equipped to do so. 

With both their starting tackles, Jonah Williams and La’el Collins, in Cincinnati out, you would presume this pair of starters are better than the current incumbents at pass protection, so maybe Kansas City will be able to get pressure on Burrow on key third downs through Frank Clark, Chris Jones and George Karlaftis.

Chiefs offence v Bengals Defence

On the other side of the ball, I can see the Bengals defence operating very similarly to how they did against the Bills last week, where they had Mike Hilton playing spy to stop Josh Allen taking off on runs and picking up first downs on key plays and third downs. He was also very damaging in breaking down some of the Bills screen plays. 

Similar to Buffalo, Kansas do not have a terrific running game because they haven’t needed one as Mahomes has been majestic at quarterback all season. He has undoubtedly been the best player in the NFL this season and I hope his leg sprain injury from last week has cleared up in the seven days. 

He has the best tight end in the game in Travis Kelce at his disposal and it will be very interesting what plan Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo puts in place to stop Kelce, especially in the red zone, which should be his top priority going into this game. It was very noticeable to me that when Mahomes was carrying the injury last week, he seemed to overly indulge in getting the ball to Kelce in that second half.

Although the Kansas City QB has some excellent receiving options and a lot of speed, he does not have blue chip talents that Burrow enjoys with receivers who can win contested catches. Certainly, no one has the level of trust that he enjoys with Kelce and Cincinnati will do all they can to curb Kelce influence. Logan Wilson is a very smart linebacker and I presume this job will come under his responsibility. 

Although Mahomes doesn’t have receivers that Burrow has at his disposal, he still has a lot of talent and speed and if he is afforded time in the pocket, he will be able to dissect any defence. This could be a big game for Juju Smith-Schuster who has been quiet of late.

There will be a lot of pressure on Sam Hubbard and especially Trey Hendrickson, their best pass rusher to put Mahomes under pressure. Although the Bengals have forced a turnover in every game this season, they are coming up against an excellent O-line at Kansas City as well. 

This is a tough one to call and I expect a high scoring game that will go to the wire. It could very much be one of those where the quarterback who has the ball last, will have the chance to win the game.

If Mahomes is hindered by his injury anywhere close to how he was last week then I don’t see the Chiefs winning. 

But my gut feeling is that the Chiefs are more likely able to provide Mahomes with a cleaner pocket than the visiting Bengals and if Mahomes is operating close to or at 100% capacity, then I’ll tip the balance in favour of a Kansas City victory.

Bengals 27-30 Chiefs