Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid talks during a news conference for this weeks AFC conference championship NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
In this Jan. 11, 2020, file photo, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel works against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Baltimore. Its taken first-time head coach Mike Vrabel two seasons, but the hands on former linebacker with three Super Bowl rings himself has them a win away from the franchises second Super Bowl berth. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates with fans after tight end Blake Bell scored a touchdown against the Houston Texans, during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Baltimore. The Titans won 28-12. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Andy Reid rarely digs into his own past, preferring to stay in the moment or focus squarely on the future. It's an approach that has served him well during a coaching career that might someday land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Yet when his Kansas City Chiefs faced a seemingly insurmountable hole in the divisional round of the playoffs, Reid caught himself thinking back almost four decades to his final game as an offensive lineman at BYU. It was the Holiday Bowl and SMU had taken a 45-25 lead in the fourth quarter. Just about everybody in Jack Murphy Stadium that night thought it was over, only to watch, stunned, as the Cougars scored three late touchdowns to win the game.
''That kind of stuck in there. You had that hope,'' Reid said this week when asked what gave him confidence Kansas City could rally to a 51-31 win over the Texans for a spot in the AFC championship game. ''You had that hope. Then it's the feel of your team. You're on the sideline, you've been down there long enough, you can sense what they're thinking, where their mind is at. These guys weren't flinching. Let's get it right.''
The Chiefs (13-4) got everything right the rest of the way. And the comeback from a 24-0 deficit propelled them into a matchup Sunday with Tennessee (11-7), which has merely knocked off the Patriots and top-seeded Ravens - on the road, no less - to reach the precipice of the Super Bowl.
It will be the first time coaching this deep in the playoffs for the Titans' Mike Vrabel, but it's certainly familiar territory to his counterpart. Reid had the Chiefs in the same position a year ago, when they lost in overtime to New England - the Patriots won the coin toss and marched downfield for a touchdown - and he led the Eagles to five NFC championship games during his 14 years in Philadelphia.
''I have done a few of these,'' Reid said, ''and you know, we try to keep it as normal as we possibly can as far as the schedule goes for the players, so they can get their work done. One thing that changes is how fast the game is. I can tell you from experience, the magnitude, every time you take a step up in the playoffs - it's single elimination.''
Experience is great. Successful experience is better, and that is where Reid falls short. His only conference title came during the 2004 season, when the Eagles lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots. And who should be on the New England roster that night but a game-wrecking linebacker named Vrabel, who even caught a touchdown pass.
Vrabel may not have any experience in this position as a coach, but has plenty as a player. He lifted the Lombardi Trophy three times with New England before finishing his career - coincidentally - with two seasons in Kansas City.
''I spent 14 years in the National Football League,'' Vrabel said, ''and I don't even know how many playoff games, but those were good experiences about preparation and really focusing on what got us to this point from where we were at different points in the season. And then, there's also things that I have to do as a coach to make sure that we're ready.''
On offense, that means pounding away with running back Derrick Henry and getting just enough production from Ryan Tannehill, just as the Titans did during a back-and-forth Week 10 win over the Chiefs.
On defense, it means slowing down the aerial assault of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his fleet of game-changing playmakers: running back Damien Williams, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.
''I think there is a belief in one another, first and foremost,'' Tannehill said. ''We've been through a lot this season, ups and downs, and won games in a lot of different ways. With that comes a lot of belief and a lot of confidence in one another.''
The Chiefs have plenty of confidence in their own right. They haven't lost since that game in Tennessee, and their comeback last week gave them the belief they can overcome anything. Their offense is still shattering records and a retooled defense under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has been playing as well as any in the league.
''I think that with the Titans, the physicality and determination they play with is big,'' Mahomes said. ''They're going to get after it and fight for every single yard. Their defense is going to fly around to the ball and not give up on anything. We're just trying to match that. We're going to go out there and give it everything we have to come out with a victory.''
Henry already made history as the first player in the Super Bowl era to run for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games, and nobody has more yards rushing over the first four postseason games than his 561. He also has the three best games in Titans history for yards from scrimmage, set the franchise's single-game postseason rushing mark in each of the past two weeks, and he even threw a jump pass for a touchdown in their 28-12 win in Baltimore.
''We always knew he was a beast,'' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ''I'm just glad the whole world knows as well.''
Seemingly forgotten during the brilliant season of the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, Mahomes has again put together an MVP-caliber resume. He kept it going in the playoffs, too, becoming the first player to throw for at least 300 yards, run for at least 50 and throw five TD passes in a single playoff game last week against Houston. He's also healthy after ankle and knee injuries this season, including one that hobbled him in Week 10 against Tennessee.
The Titans have gotten back to the stingy defense they played much of the season, including the first seven games, when they didn't allow an opponent to score more than 20 points. They've allowed only two touchdowns on seven chances inside their 20, thanks in part to the return of injured cornerback Adoree' Jackson. Defensive captain and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey says they wanted to make sure and try to match what the offense has been doing.
''And it's just guys locking back in,'' Casey said.
The Chiefs' Travis Kelce became the first player with three postseason touchdown catches in one quarter in last week's comeback win over Houston. It was another highlight in another Pro Bowl season for the tight end, who has been dealing with some minor knee pain during the postseason but should be ready to go Sunday.
''Just got to keep your foot on the gas pedal,'' he said. ''You can't get too excited; you can't get a sense of relief like, `Oh, we're back in the game.' You got to keep going forward and know that you've got a lot of unfinished business.''
The Titans haven't won a conference championship since 1999 and haven't appeared in a title game since 2002, though to the Chiefs that probably seems like yesterday. It has been 50 years since they played in the Super Bowl, and they ache to give owner Clark Hunt the AFC championship trophy that bears the name of his father, team founder Lamar Hunt.
''We're going to put the pressure on ourselves to find a way to win it,'' Mahomes said. ''When you fall that short and that close last year, the next step is to get to the Super Bowl. We understood that going into this season and we know it's a long season. We know it's a process. We know that day by day we have to get better. I think that's what this team is great at, just getting better every single day and then going out and fighting until the end in every single opportunity we get.''
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Sunday that the team isn't pursuing a long-term contract extension with running back Marlon Mack currently. It doesn't mean that it's not on the table or that the Colts don't want to keep Mack around for the long-term, but it's not a pressing issue. The 23-year-old (24 next month) is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. He's been the starter the last two years and had 247 carries for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. However, he's also missed eight games the last two seasons, so Indy might be hesitant in thinking he'll continue to be a lead back for years to come. Mack does have a strong offensive line in front of him, but he'll be more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 going into the final year of his contract in 2020.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) had a doctor visit on Friday and said, "It was a good report. I got to bypass the tennis ball throwing for a month and go right to the football. Still going to be about 2.5-3 months until I get total clearance from doc but we are doing good!" The Steelers posted a video on Twitter of Roethlisberger lightly tossing a football in a gym on Saturday. The veteran gunslinger played in just two games in 2019 before needing season-ending right elbow surgery. He seems to be coming along well and should be ready for the season opener in 2020, barring any setbacks. Big Ben is injury prone at his age, but he put up career highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2018 and will be a QB2 with QB1 upside if he can stay healthy.
The Green Bay Packers agreed to a three-year contract extension with kicker Mason Crosby on Saturday, according to a source. Crosby has been with the Packers since he was drafted in 2007, and he missed just two field goals and one extra point in 2019. The veteran kicker will turn 36 before the start of the 2020 season, but he should remain fantasy relevant as at least a low-end fantasy kicker as long as the Packers offense remains effective under quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Crosby finished last season with 106 fantasy points, which came in at 14th in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) was seen lightly throwing a football in a video that the Steelers posted on Twitter on Saturday. Roethlisberger only played in two games in 2019 before needing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, but it looks like he's making progress. He's focused on returning to finish out his contract, which runs through the 2021 season. Pittsburgh's front office and coaching staff are optimistic that Roethlisberger will be ready for Week 1. Turning 38 next month, Big Ben will be an injury risk as a QB2, but he could be a steal if he returns to the form he displayed in 2018 when he had a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions re-signed wide receiver Danny Amendola to a one-year deal on Saturday, according to his agent, Erik Burkhardt. All three of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Amendola are in contract years in 2020. Amendola, 34, had 62 catches for 678 yards and a touchdown in his first season with Detroit last year. The 678 yards were the second-highest total in his career. The veteran slot man has caught 547 passes for 5,362 yards and 21 touchdowns in 141 games in his career with the Patriots, Rams, Dolphins and Lions. Unless one of Golladay or Jones are injured in 2020, though, Amendola's fantasy ceiling will be limited.
The New York Jets signed wide receiver Josh Doctson to an undisclosed deal on Saturday. Doctson was taken 22nd overall in the first round by the Redskins in 2016, but he's mostly been a disappointment in his career to this point. He finished three seasons with Washington with 81 catches, 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. Doctson signed with Minnesota in 2019 but spent most of the year on Injured Reserve. Robby Anderson is expected to leave in free agency and Demaryius Thomas could as well, while Quincy Enunwa's status is in the air because of a neck injury. Doctson won't be the only wideout New York adds this offseason, and he'll mostly serve as receiver depth heading into the 2020 season.
Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper will become a free agent on March 16, and he could reset the tight end market with his next deal. Hooper was fifth in the league in catches among all players with 52 through the first eight games of last season. He missed three games with a knee injury but still managed to finish with a career-high 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Hooper is expected to top Jimmy Graham's $10 million per-year-average from his 2014 contract with the Saints, even if the Falcons re-sign him. With the Falcons having little room with the salary cap, they'll have to do reshuffling to keep Hooper. Staying with Atlanta would probably be best for his fantasy stock, but Hooper could easily remain a high-end TE1 if he goes elsewhere.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen), who had surgery on Jan. 21 on a core muscle, posted a video on his Instagram of him running on a treadmill on Thursday. A league sources estimates that Beckham will be healthy in a month. There's no guarantee that OBJ will take part in the offseason program, which begins on April 6 for teams with new head coaches. Cleveland's new offensive system will challenge quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won't be able to work with his top receivers until training camp. If Beckham and Mayfield can get on the same page, they should have a good shot to improve on their numbers last season. However, Beckham will be seen as more of a low-end WR1 with upside until the Browns prove us wrong.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have considered signing quarterback Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason, with the first year guaranteed and the second year a team option, according to sources. The first year of the deal would be roughly the same as the franchise tag of $27 million. Tampa could also just use the franchise or transition tag, with the transition tag around $2.5 million cheaper than the franchise tag. The 26-year-old led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and 33 touchdowns last year, but he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Winston's fantasy value will be the highest as a QB1 if he stays in Tampa with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers.
The Chicago Bears are releasing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara on Friday, according to a source. Gabriel played in just nine games in his second and final season in Chicago in 2019 because of injuries, catching only 29 passes (48 targets) for 353 yards and four touchdowns. He's still on the right side of 30 years old but offers a limited upside in fantasy and limited size (5-foot-7, 168 pounds). Gabriel did manage a career-high 67 catches, 688 yards and two scores in 2018. Depending on where he lands in free agency, he's likely to be a complementary piece of a passing offense. Amukamara, 31 this June, had 53 tackles (44 solo), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 15 games for the Bears last season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) is making good progress from the plantar fasciitis issues he dealt with last season. In his first year with the Raiders, Williams caught 42 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns. He only missed two games but was slowed by his foot issues, mostly in the second half. Williams started off with five touchdowns in his first five games, but he predictably fell off from there with just one more touchdown on the season. He gives the Raiders a downfield threat, but the problem is that quarterback Derek Carr doesn't often challenge defenses deep. If Las Vegas addresses the receiver position in free agency or the draft, Williams could have even more trouble being a consistent performer. As of now, he's a touchdown-dependent flex option.
The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised their team options for fifth-year wide receiver Chris Conley and fourth-year safety Jarrod Wilson on Friday. Conley will be under contract for 2020, while Wilson is now under contract through 2021. Conley set a career high in catches (47), receiving yards (775) and yards per catch (16.5) in his first season with the Jaguars in 2019. He managed five touchdowns in all 16 games (14 starts). The 27-year-old has 10 touchdowns in the last two seasons, but his fantasy ceiling is limited in a run-first offense while also competing for targets with D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook. Think of Conley as more of a WR5/flex play in deeper leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could be open to a trade if the team explores one this offseason. However, he could be tough to trade coming off a Lisfranc foot injury while having high salary cap numbers the next two seasons. Jeffery has a history of injuries during his playing career and managed to play in just 10 games for the Eagles in 2019, catching 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. It was his lowest yardage total since his rookie year in 2012 with Chicago. The 30-year-old posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2013-14, but he's become an inconsistent, injury prone wideout the last two seasons in Philly. A change of scenery wouldn't necessarily make him any more attractive to fantasy owners.
The Washington Redskins are growing increasingly hopeful that left tackle Trent Williams will return to the team, as head coach Ron Rivera has made him one of his offseason priorities in trying to get him to return. Williams held out last season because of beef with the team's previous front-office regime and training staff, but those parties are all gone. Rivera and Williams have had positive phone conversations, and it sounds like they have a good shot to retain him. It's all good news for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who looked a little overmatched in limited playing time in his rookie season. The 'Skins are slowly rebuilding, and having Williams anchor down Haskins' blind side would be huge.
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to be in the market for wide receivers this offseason, and they've already been linked to Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor had his best season in 2017 when Frank Reich and Mike Groh were offensive assistants -- they are both with the Colts now. In just 11 games in 2019, Agholor disappointed with 39 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns. An injury ended his season early, but he couldn't take advantage of DeSean Jackson's injury that kept him out for the majority of the year. A change of scenery would probably serve him well, but he wouldn't be guaranteed a large role in Indy's run-first offense with questions at quarterback.
The Detroit Lions plan to release defensive tackle Damon Harrison in the coming days, according to a source. The move will free up around $6.7 million in salary cap space but will leave the team with a hole on their defensive line up the middle. Even though Snacks Harrison had a down year in 2019 due to knee and groin injuries, he was their best defensive player in the second half of 2018 after he was acquired from the Giants. Harrison finished with 49 tackles last year, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2012, and he only had two sacks in 15 games. He will consider retirement this offseason while seeing what materializes in free agency. In his prime, Harrison was one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in the game.
The Tennessee Titans aren't expected to pick up wide receiver Corey Davis' fifth-year team option for the 2021 season. If the Titans were to pick it up, Davis would be owed around $15.8 million in 2021. The 25-year-old former fifth overall pick in 2017 had 65 catches for 891 yards in his sophomore season in 2018, but he regressed in 2019 when he had only 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie A.J. Brown became the Titans go-to No. 1 receiver last year. Tennessee envisioned Davis becoming that guy when they drafted him, but he's failed to live up to expectations in his three seasons. Heading into 2020, he'll be a WR4/5 without much upside in this run-first offense.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said on Thursday that wide receiver A.J. Green is "a guy we want to be around." Green hasn't played in a game since December of 2018 and hasn't been a Pro Bowler since 2017 in his last full season. He's due to become a free agent next month and has played in just nine games the last two years, but the Bengals could still use him. If Cincinnati can't reach a long-term extension with the veteran, they're likely to use the franchise tag on him. Turning 32 this summer, Green has had 1,000 yards receiving in six of his eight seasons, but his fantasy stock will be way down since he hasn't been able to stay healthy of late. If he remains with the Bengals, as is expected, he'll likely have LSU quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020.
The Washington Redskins released tight end Jordan Reed on Thursday. The move was expected and will save the team $8.5 million in salary cap space. Reed missed all of the 2019 season with a concussion, his seventh documented one in his seven seasons. He was just cleared from the league's concussion protocol on Wednesday and has never played a full season in the NFL due to head and other injuries. Despite the lingering concussion concerns, a source close to Reed said he wants to continue playing. In a career-high 14 games in 2015, Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Without Reed in the picture, Washington's top tight end is Jeremy Sprinkle, who had 26 catches in 2019. However, he's considered more of a blocker, so the 'Skins will surely look to bolster the position in free agency or the draft. If Reed continues his career and lands elsewhere, he'll strictly be a low-end injury risk as a TE2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is expected to be sidelined six to eight months after having surgery to shave down some cartilage and remove two pieces of bone embedded in the labrum of his left hip on Feb. 4. The Browns expect Landry to make a full recovery for the 2020 season, but he might be limited in training camp and could be questionable for the Week 1. He will be on crutches for two weeks and then can continue with physical therapy and riding a stationary bike. Despite dealing with the hip injury in 2019, Landry didn't miss a game for the sixth straight year and had career highs in yards (1,174) and yards per catch (14.1). His six touchdowns were the second-best total of his career. With a new coaching staff in place, losing repetitions in training camp could be problematic. Landry will have some added risk as a WR2 in PPR leagues in 2020.