Thu Jan 30 2:37pm ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo speaks during a media availability Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami, for the team's NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami, for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman gestures as he speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami, for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Aventura, Fla., for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Aventura, Fla., for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Aventura, Fla., for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami, for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI (AP) Few Super Bowls in recent memory have appeared as competitive as the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs.
No wonder there's a little more buzz about this one.
History and excitement are a nice combination for any championship game.
The history stems from the Chiefs seeking their first title since 1970, when they won the fourth Super Bowl in the final matchup of AFL-NFL. The full merger took place the next season - and Kansas City hasn't been back to the Super Bowl for which its founder, Lamar Hunt, provided the name.
“I think he would be amazed,” said his son, Clark Hunt, who now oversees the Chiefs. “He and my mother actually talked about that at one of the last Super Bowls they attended together about 15 years ago. He said, 'I always knew it was going to be big, but I didn't know it was going to be this big.”
Then there's Andy Reid, whose NFL head coaching resume goes back to 1999 in Philadelphia. He has a Super Bowl ring from work as an assistant coach in Green Bay, but Reid is 0-1 in the big game.
“Just getting him here isn't the goal,” star tight end Travis Kelce said. “Winning this thing for him is.”
San Francisco is seeking its sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy, which would equal the record held by Pittsburgh and New England. The 49ers also are looking to be only the second team to go from 4-12 the previous season to the top of the heap.
“It's been quite a journey,” said halfback Raheem Mostert, who himself has had quite the sojourn in the NFL. He was cut by seven teams and was a special-teamer for the 49ers before getting a chance - and taking off running with it. Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC title game.
“This franchise has a lot of history and accomplishments. Of course we want to add to that.”
Mostert is one of a field full of players who will push the thrill throttle to the floor and keep it there. So is Kelce.
But Kelce might not be the best tight end in the game. It's close, but 49ers All-Pro George Kittle is just as capable of breaking open this Super Bowl with something spectacular.
And celebrate it almost as adeptly as J-Lo and Shakira will fill the halftime stage.
“I think we both have a really good time playing football,” Kittle said. “You can see that on the tape. We both just enjoy being out there with our teammates. We both make plays when we’re asked to, and I think we both make plays when we’re not asked to.”
Both teams have wideouts capable of swinging momentum in their team's favor. For the Chiefs it's perhaps the speediest group the NFL has seen. Tyreek Hill is sure of it.
"If I'm healthy and my mind is in the right place, I'd go try out for the Olympics, put together a relay," Hill said. “We'd show these track guys, 'Hey, we football players can do that, too.'”
He's put fellow receivers Sammy Watkins and rookie Mecole Hardman on that relay.
"It almost looks like they got their roster from the Olympic relay team and threw them all on the football field," 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “Not to say they can't run routes and catch either, because they can do that. They're a special group and you can see why they're there.”
Still, the 49ers have a clutch receiver in veteran Emmanuel Sanders, a rookie with no fear of going anywhere on the field - or above it - to make a catch in Deebo Samuel, and an emerging talent in Kendrick Bourne. Just like with Kansas City, they're capable of making a difference.
So is San Francisco's defense, and it will need to be at optimal precision to deal with perhaps the most electrifying player of them all in this Super Bowl: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The 49ers have a powerful pass rush sparked by a deep front four that includes a sack threat at every spot - including one rookie, Nick Bosa. A year ago, the Niners were so bad they had the second overall draft pick. They took edge rusher Bosa, and look where they are now.
The Niners have 57 sacks including the playoffs, with veteran linebacker Dee Ford, Bosa, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner all having at least 7 1/2.
Fred Warner has developed into a versatile linebacker and Richard Sherman remains one of the NFL's great cornerbacks - an action guy who will love taking on Mahomes.
“We believe in each other,” Sherman said. “We believe in the scheme. We believe in what we've done all year, and we plan on going out there and putting a good product on tape and seeing how it goes.”
For Kansas City, whose defense performed particularly well down the stretch of the regular season but hasn't been so stingy in spots during the postseason, how it goes Sunday very possibly will depend on how successful Mahomes is. The 49ers don't need their QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, to be extra special; he's been more of a caretaker behind that monstrous running game and defense in the two postseason victories.
Make no mistake about Mahomes: Kansas City needs him to be, well, vintage Mahomes.
Which means big plays with his arm, thrown from angles we didn't know existed. Howitzer throws as he rolls out - even to his left - and doesn't bother fully planting his legs. Maybe even the tightrope kind of run down the sideline that still has NFL folks shaking their heads in wonder.
“You have to accept the excitement that it is,” Mahomes said this week as he stood on a podium and spoke to reporters. “It’s amazing to be here, to be in this atmosphere, to be at this podium. It’s where you want to be when you start training camp in St. Joe, Missouri. For me, to be in this moment, I’m just enjoying it as much as possible.”
Chances are, Mahomes and his teammates, along with the 49ers, will produce one of those enjoyable, memorable, perhaps even classic Super Bowls.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel injured his left hamstring during the game against the New England Patriots, and has been ruled out for the game. Initially it was thought to be a potential knee injury, but there seems to be a sense of relief that he injured his hamstring instead. Additional injury updates will be provided as further information is known about the extent of the injury.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards and added 26 yards and a touchdown on three receptions in a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. It was another solid outing for Hunt, who now has three rushing touchdowns and four receiving scores in seven games this season. Established as a rock-solid RB1 in fantasy for as long as Nick Chubb is sidelined by a knee injury, Hunt has benefited from playing for one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. He will take on the Las Vegas Raiders at home in Week 8.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was forced to leave the game against the New England Patriots with a leg/ankle injury. Wilson had just scored his third touchdown of the day, and was in the midst of a career game, but was noticeably injured on the play and had issues standing up on his own. He had to be carted to the locker room, and will be evaluated further, but it certainly seems like he's done for the day and it also didn't look like a minor injury. Stay tuned for further updates.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 22 of 28 passes for 297 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception in a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. Mayfield's five touchdown passes sets a new career-high, beating his previous best of four TD tosses which he did back in Week 12 of the 2018 season. Even more impressive, he did so without star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. for almost the entire game after Beckham was injured on the second offensive play of the game for Cleveland. Mayfield found rookie tight end Harrison Bryant for scores twice, Kareem Hunt once, and Donovan Peoples-Jones for the game-winning score with 15 seconds left in the game. Mayfield shoots back up to the high-end QB2 ranks after his big game. He now has 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions through seven games. He will face the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris hauled in four of five targets for 44 receiving yards, including his first career receiving score. Harris' score was crucial, as it came with just seconds left in the first half, giving New Orleans a 21-17 lead heading into the locker room. The dynamic return man flashed some receiving ability at Division II Assumption University, so he's certainly capable if the Saints need some more receiving work out of him. With Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) out, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) up in the air, and Marquez Callaway (ankle) banged up- Harris could be worth a look on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (head) will not return to Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs. On a snowy, sloppy day in the Mile-High City, the 26-year-old suffered a concussion shortly before the end of the first half. Before his departure, he had nine attempts for 79 yards. Melvin Gordon, who also has nine carries, will likely serve as the featured back for the remainder of the contest. With more news to come, possibly sometime on Monday, fantasy managers will want to monitor this situation ahead of Denver's Week 8 against the Chargers.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was targeted just four times but caught all four, totaling 56 receiving yards in a win over the Panthers. It wasn't the volume fantasy managers were hoping for from Smith, as he took a backseat to undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway (ankle). However, Smith really could be the lone wolf in the receiving room next week, especially if Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19), and Callaway are all out for a Week 8 matchup against the Bears.
The Washington Football Team defense had another good game against a banged-up offense as they dominated the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys. Dallas was playing without several starters on the offensive line and Washington took advantage as they sacked Dalton six times with one sack leading to a safety. Cole Holcomb led the charge for Washington with an interception and a sack from the middle linebacker position. In all, Washington allowed three points, recorded six sacks, a safety, and an interception on a great day for fantasy managers. The Football Team will have a bye in Week 8 but have another juicy matchup versus the Giants in Week 9 where they will be a startable unit in fantasy.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had seven catches (13 targets) for 82 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. The veteran recorded another convincing performance against Cleveland while combining for 15 receptions (24 targets) over the team's previous two contests. Although fantasy managers may not see this type of production against the Titans in Week 8, he could have some more favorable outings over Cincy's remaining nine games, especially if Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd continue to open things up for him.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway caught eight of 10 targets for 75 receiving yards in a 27-24 victory over Carolina. Callaway led the team in targets in the absences of both Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Somewhat quietly, the 22-year old rookie has compiled 16 targets over his last two contests. With Sanders definitely out and Thomas's status looking murky, Callaway makes for an interesting waiver add. He did sustain an ankle injury and had to be helped off the field to the locker room. If Callaway's ankle isn't anything serious, fantasy managers should consider him as a streaming option against Chicago.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense didn't fare well in Week 7 despite being matched up against a Washington Football Team that was allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing fantasy defenses. The Cowboys defense allowed 23 points, recording two sacks but no turnovers. The Cowboys will take on the Eagles in the battle of bad NFC East defenses next week, where they will not be a recommended fantasy option.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught all five of his targets to finish with 71 yards and a touchdown against the Browns on Sunday. The rookie now has three touchdowns on the year, finding the end zone for the first time since Week 3 against the Eagles. With Joe Burrow leading a pass-heavy attack for Cincy, Higgins may continue to benefit, especially with Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green drawing the attention needed to open things up for him over the remaining nine games of his inaugural season.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught 11 of his 13 targets to finish the Week 7 matchup against the Browns with 101 yards and a score. After fizzling out against the Colts last Sunday, the 25-year-old recorded one of his most convincing performances of the 2020 campaign. Boyd has now logged at least eight targets in five of Cincy's seven contests and should continue to benefit from the stellar play of rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow. However, things may get difficult for the former Pittsburgh Panther in Week 8 against the Titans, with Tennessee looking to rebound after suffering its first defeat of the year against the Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted a field goal in Week 7, and it was good for the only three points the Cowboys scored in an ugly 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team. Zuerlein made his kick from 45 yards out and was never on the field on offense again. The Dallas offense is in total shambles, possibly moving Zuerlein out of the top-15 fantasy kickers going forward. He should continue to be solid, but may not get enough opportunities to score significant fantasy points.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup came up empty in a rough Week 7 loss. Gallup was targeted twice but couldn't come down with either pass, ending up with a blank box score and zero fantasy points. Gallup was working as a field stretcher with Dak Prescott around, but now with Andy Dalton and possibly Ben DiNucci throwing the ball for the Cowboys, Gallup seems much more likely to hit the "bust" part of his boom-or-bust fantasy outlook.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas caught all four of his targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win over the Cowboys. Thomas played second-fiddle to Terry McLaurin in the passing game as no other Washington player had more than two targets. Thomas made them count catching several big passes to move the chains while finding the end zone for the third time this season. Thomas has had an up-and-down season but is getting enough weekly targets to be considered a borderline starter in 12-team fantasy leagues. He'll be a touchdown-dependant starter in his next matchup in Week 9 versus the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard racked up 37 yards off 13 carries during the heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns. He also added five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The veteran filled in admirably for Joe Mixon (foot), who is considered week-to-week after being injured during the Week 6 encounter with the Colts. At this point, the 28-year-old has likely found a home on fantasy rosters. However, if he is still floating around the waiver wire, managers should pick him up before it's too late, especially if Mixon cannot suit up against the Titans in Week 8. Although Bernard isn't the most efficient runner, he should continue to benefit from the team's pass-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 56 scrimmage yards on 12 total touches in a victory over the Panthers. Murray's 4.3 yards per carry were a bit skewed, as he picked up 25 yards on one run and just 22 yards on the other 10 carries. Still, the opportunity Murray is getting is encouraging for those who have him rostered, as the coaching staff clearly trusts him. It bears repeating, but if something were to happen to Alvin Kamara, Murray would be an easy start as an RB1.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin posted a 7-90-1 line versus the Cowboys to help lead Washington to a win over their division rival. The sophomore receiver was a huge part of the game plan against a bad Dallas secondary as McLaurin was targeted 11 times, his fourth game this season with double-digit targets. It could have been an even bigger game for McLaurin but he came up inches short of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He made up for it a couple of drives later as he torched Trevon Diggs for a 52-yard score. McLaurin doesn't operate in the NFL's most electrifying offense, but his combination of skill and target-floor make him one of the best WR options in fantasy. He'll have another solid matchup with the Giants in Week 9 after the bye.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 14 times for 83 rushing yards and caught all eight targets for 65 receiving yards in a 27-24 win. The 83 rushing yards tied a season-high for Kamara, as the running room was easy to find against Carolina's ground defense. Amazingly, the star halfback has exceeded 100 scrimmage yards in every game but one- and he ended up with two scores in that contest to salvage his day. There might be no better player to roster in fantasy football right now, so managers should keep riding the Kamara wave into a Week 8 contest against a Bears Defense that can be had on the ground.