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.
May 14th: Draft Values
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift was recently named by USA Today as one of the league's top instant impact rookies. The 21-year-old, who was drafted 35th overall in the NFL Draft, is slated to fight for carries with the oft-injured Kerryon Johnson this upcoming season. While Swift may not make an immediate impact, he could eventually find himself gobbling up carries toward the end of the year, resulting in Johnson becoming relegated to an afterthought. The former Bulldog has received plenty of praise since his selection by the team, and will likely be one of the first rookies off the board in dynasty drafts for the upcoming 2020 campaign. Swift compiled 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns off of 195 attempts (6.2 YPC) during his final season at Georgia and was also named First-Team All-SEC.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor could be involved in the team's offensive plan from the get-go this season. According to head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, they both reiterated that the rookie, along with Marlon Mack, will form an impactful one-two punch during the 2020 campaign. Mack has missed numerous games due to injury throughout his tenure in the league, but he still managed to finish with a career-best 1,091 yards in 2019. However, with the former Badger now in the mix, Mack may concede more touches in 2020 than initially thought.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has been working out with Dr. Sharif Tabbah of Athletix Rehab & Recovering, located in the Miami, Florida area. The 24-year-old, who has yet to sign an extension of his rookie contract, was relegated to playing just 14 games in 2019 as a result of a leg injury, while also accumulating a career-low six total touchdowns. With the former Tennessee Volunteer seemingly 100 percent and looking for big money in 2020, he will have extra incentive to produce, potentially surpassing his production from last year.
The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping they selected a franchise building block when they used the No. 1 overall pick on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow in the NFL draft last month. While Burrow has plenty of potential and is likely to start the majority of the team's 16 games in 2020, instant success may be hard to come by. Of the 50 rookie quarterbacks to have made at least eight starts since 2000, only 13 have finished with a winning record as a starter. Burrow has plenty of upside but he might not turn into a viable fantasy option until the 2021 season, at the earliest.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy has revealed that he, in a major change of course, will play his starters during the 2020 preseason. The third-year coach had been adamant about not exposing his starters to exhibition action in his first two seasons as coach but now admits that was a mistake last season. "As we talk, that's one of the things that I look back at from last year that I'm not happy about that I made a decision to do in the preseason," Nagy said on the Waddle & Silvy Show. "Number one, I think it's good for them to have it, but number two it sets the mentality. So that's not going to happen this year." The Bears have plenty to prove in 2020 after going 8-8 last season and will have a fierce quarterback competition on their hands between newly acquired passerNick Foles and incumbent starter Mitch Trubisky. In the first half of games last season the Bears offense was, perhaps, the worst unit in football. Nagy is hoping the preseason reps will sharpen an offense with plenty to prove in 2020.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson conducted a throwing session on Friday with Marquise Brown. Jackson displayed some pinpoint accuracy while Hollywood appeared healthy after having offseason surgery on his foot back in February. With more individual workouts planned moving ahead, which will also include fellow teammate Mark Ingram II--among others--Jackson and company will likely have a leg up on others who aren't able to practice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 23-year-old signal-caller finished the 2019 season as one of the most productive fantasy options, while also being named the league's MVP. He will undoubtedly be the first quarterback off the board in fantasy drafts leading up to the 2020 campaign, and rightfully so.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert played more snaps in 2019 than all but nine other tight ends.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz's 525 receptions are the most by a tight end in NFL history through their first seven seasons.
Fantasy Spin: Ertz has reached the mark by being one of the steadiest performers at the position. He has recorded at least 74 receptions and topped 800 yards in each of the last five seasons. Ertz is a top-three fantasy tight end.
New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook scored a career-high nine touchdowns in 2019 while averaging 16.4 yards per catch and logging 15 receptions of at least 20 yards.
Fantasy Spin: Cook has been a late bloomer, topping 700 yards in each of the past two seasons while scoring 15 of his 34 career touchdowns. He should remain a key cog of the passing attack in New Orleans in 2020, giving him top-five upside at the tight end position.
Chicago Bears WR Ted Ginn Jr. has the 'slight edge' over WR Javon Wims and WR Cordarrelle Patterson for the No. 3 receiver role, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, but Rosenthal doesn't believe any of them will play 'starter' snaps.
New England Patriots fullback Dan Vitale would like to follow in the footsteps of the now retired James Develin. Vitale is aware that he has some big shoes to fill after Develin decided to call it a career due to health concerns. This marks his fourth season in the league, but the 2020 campaign will be his first with the Pats. James was a hell-of-a player, Ive enjoyed watching him, really since I got in the league now and he was really a role model at the position," says Vitale. He knows that being versatile and using his intelligence to the best of his ability are crucial to succeeding as a fullback in the league. It sounds like Vitale is prepared for his next step in his career.
New England Patriots defensive back Joejuan Williams is increasing his value through versatility this offseason. He played 82 defensive snaps last season, which is mostly due to the fact that the Pats were stacked in the secondary. The former second-round pick from 2019 will look to carve out a role as a versatile rotational player. He will likely play both defensive back and safety for the Pats next season. Williams is not expected to have a huge role on the team, but playing multiple positions should help him get on the field more often.
Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton caught 22 of his 40 targets for 280 yards and two touchdowns in five games with Drew Lock as the starting quarterback in 2019. In his 11 other games, Sutton hauled in 50 of his 84 targets for 832 yards and four TDs.
Detroit Lions WRs Kenny Golladay amassed 35 catches on 62 targets for 640 yards and seven touchdowns with Matthew Stafford as his quarterback in 2019. Meanwhile, Marvin Jones tallied 42 receptions on 57 targets for 535 yards and six TDs prior to Stafford getting hurt.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon rushed for 817 yards following the team's Week 8 bye. Only Derrick Henry ran for more yards (959) over that same span, while no back topped Mixon's 177 rushing attempts.
New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder caught 70 of his 107 targets for 758 yards and six touchdowns in the 13 games Sam Darnold was able to play in 2019. In three games without Darnold, Crowder tallied eight receptions on 15 targets for 75 yards and zero scores.
Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson was on target with 72.5 percent of his throws in 2019 - tied for the fourth-best mark by a quarterback with at least 300 pass attempts.
Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins threw a catchable ball 78.8 percent of the time in 2019 - tied for the third-best mark by a quarterback with at least 300 pass attempts.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Steven Nelson allowed completions on only 29 of 62 throws in his coverage in 2019. The resulting 46.8 catch rate by receivers in his coverage was the third-lowest mark allowed by a cornerback who was targeted at least 60 times.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers led the league with 109 pass attempts behind the line of scrimmage and ranked second in attempts of at least 20 yards with 102. Conversely, he finished 15th in attempts between zero and 10 yards (236) and 18th on throws between 10 and 20 yards (100).