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.''
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh plans to play in 2020 and wants to stay with the Bucs. Suh will be a free agent next month, but the Buccaneers might look to retain him for another season. He turned 33 last month and is on the downside of his career after recording a career-low 2.5 sacks in his first season with Tampa in 2019. Suh added 41 tackles (22 solo) and four fumble recoveries, but he's no longer the force he was earlier in his career for those that play in IDP leagues.
Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said that tight end Hunter Henry is a candidate for the franchise tag. The goal is for the two sides to work out a contract extension, but the tag will be a fallback option if they can't work something out. Henry has yet to play in a full season in his three years in the NFL, but he'd be the second most attractive tight end on the open market behind Austin Hooper if he gets there. In 12 games in 2019, Henry had 55 catches for 652 yards and five touchdowns. He'll still likely be a strong TE1 if he remains with the Bolts, but the downgrade from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor or someone else under center is something to consider.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas said the team is "hopeful" that wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (neck) will play football again. Enunwa played in just one game in the 2019 season and was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. His career remains up in the air, but the Jets need all the receiver help they can get with Robby Anderson likely departing in free agency. The wideout also missed five games in 2018 and is an extreme injury risk if he returns to play for Gang Green in 2020. Fantasy owners would be wise to take a wait-and-see approach with him if he continues his career.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that he doesn't think quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) will need surgery after dislocating his kneecap in the middle of the season. "Right now he looks good," Reid said. "He was out throwing with Dez (Bryant) the other day so he looked like he was slinging it around pretty good. I think hes fine." Mahomes missed two games because of the knee injury, but he was just fine when he returned and led the Chiefs to the Super Bowl title over the 49ers. He wasn't quite as good in 2019 as he was when he won the MVP in 2018, but Mahomes is the most dynamic quarterback in the NFL and will be the top signal-caller off the boards in 2020 drafts, even if he has offseason surgery.
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said it's unlikely that the team will retain wide receiver Sammy Watkins under his current deal. Watkins is scheduled to make $14 million in 2020. The Chiefs will meet with Watkins' representatives this week. The 26-year-old came up big in the postseason each of the last two years with KC, but has been very mediocre each of the last two regular seasons with the Chiefs. Watkins had 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns for a career-low 12.9 yards per catch in 14 games in 2019. Even in the Chiefs explosive offense with Patrick Mahomes throwing him passes, Watkins was an inconsistent WR4 for fantasy owners.
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said that defensive tackle Chris Jones, who will be a free agent in March, is a priority for the team this offseason. The Chiefs want to keep Jones and defensive end Frank Clark together, so the franchise tag is an option with Jones. The 25-year-old is a run-stuffer in the middle of KC's defensive line and tallied 36 tackles (23 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 13 games for the Chiefs in the regular season before helping them win the Super Bowl over the 49ers. He has 33 total sacks in his four seasons with KC after being a second-round pick in 2016.
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry said that the team will place a tender on impending restricted free-agent running back Kareem Hunt. Despite a traffic stop in the offseason in which Hunt admitted he'd fail a drug test, the Browns would like him to return as a complement to Nick Chubb in their backfield, mainly as a pass-catching option. Suspended for the first half of 2019, Hunt ran the ball 43 times for 179 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 37 catches for 285 yards and a score through the air. He'd have more fantasy upside on another team as the primary back, but he'll continue to have RB3/flex appeal in point-per-reception leagues if the Browns bring him back.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase isn't sure if running back Le'Veon Bell will take part in the team's offseason program. However, Gase said "it's not a huge deal" if Bell is absent. Gase isn't a huge fan of Bell, but it'll be extremely hard for the Jets to trade Bell because of his large contract. After holding out for all of 2018, Bell had his worst season as a professional in his first year with Gang Green. He ran 245 times for 789 rushing yards (3.2 yards per carry) and only three rushing touchdowns. Bell added 66 catches for 461 yards and one receiving TD. As long as he stays with the Jets, he'll be more of an RB2 with upside in PPR leagues.
New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is considering the possibility of trading back from the No. 4 overall selection in the first round of this year's draft. "Were open for business," Gettleman said. The Giants have their QB of the future in Daniel Jones, who they took in the first round last year, and they could be looking to secure multiple picks later in the draft in order to move back. The Dolphins are expected to take a quarterback at No. 5 overall, so the Giants will be open to trading back with a team that may want to jump in front of Miami to get the signal-caller that they desire.
Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said that quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) is already working out and will be a full-go for the start of the offseason program. Stafford was on his way to a career year in 2019 before breaking his back and missing the final eight games of the season. It's a great sign that he's recovered nicely and won't miss any of the offseason workouts for Detroit. With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola all back for 2020, Stafford will be a solid QB1 target and could potentially come at a nice price given his serious injury last season. He'll also have emerging young tight end T.J. Hockenson as a nice red-zone weapon.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (hip) said he's expecting to be cleared by doctors on March 9. Tagovailoa will then take part in a Pro Day in early April. There are concerns about his health and his size, but he'll still likely be taken early in the first round of drafts with many teams looking for a franchise signal-caller. Most experts are predicting that the Dolphins will go after him with the fifth overall pick, but Miami is lukewarm on Tua at this point and may prefer Oregon QB Justin Herbert at this point. Another team could also trade up ahead of the Dolphins to take Tagovailoa if they really like him. Because of his hip injury, Tagovailoa and his agent have already said that they wouldn't mind him sitting and learning for a year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said that the team's coaches are "more than excited" about what tight end O.J. Howard can do in his second year in head coach Bruce Arians' offense in 2020. The Bucs are "very high" on him despite Howard catching 34 passes for 459 yards and a career-low one touchdown in 14 games in 2019. The 25-year-old caught the same number of passes in 2018 in only 10 games played. He was the biggest tight end bust in fantasy last year after being a breakout candidate over the summer. There's a chance that Tampa makes it a point to involve Howard more, especially in the red zone, but with Cameron Brate still around, fantasy owners will want to see it before they believe it.
Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock left open the possibility that the team will look to upgrade over quarterback Derek Carr this offseason. "Every position gets evaluated every year, and if we can upgrade it, we will," Mayock said. Carr had a career-high 70.4 completion percentage and a career-high 4,054 passing yards, but he underwhelmed with just 21 touchdown passes over a full season. With Tom Brady potentially becoming available on the free-agent market next month, the Raiders could look to make a splash in their first season in Las Vegas and land the future Hall of Famer. Even if they don't and Carr remains the starter for the Black and Silver, he'll be a low-ceiling QB2 in fantasy.
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace thinks running back David Montgomery can be the team's featured running back and carry a bigger workload in his sophomore season in 2020. That is if the Bears decide to run more next season. Montgomery was pretty average in his rookie campaign, rushing 242 times for 889 yards and six touchdowns on 3.7 yards per carry. There's obviously room for improvement if the 22-year-old sees more of a workload in 2020, but the quarterback situation in Chicago could hold Montgomery and the offense as a whole back. Montgomery will be more of an RB3 entering fall drafts.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said that tight end Austin Hooper and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell will hit the free-agent market. With Atlanta up against the salary cap, it's widely believed that they won't have enough salary cap space to re-sign Hooper, who is expected to reset the tight end market after he posted career highs in catches (75), receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (six) despite missing three games with an injury in 2019. Along with potentially Hunter Henry, Hooper will be the top tight end available in free agency. He was a high-end fantasy tight end in Atlanta and he could still be that with another team, but staying with the Falcons would be the best scenario for his long-term fantasy value.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (foot) had offseason surgery to remove the screw from his foot, according to sources. Brown might be limited in the offseason program because of the surgery, but he's expected to be fine by training camp. Hollywood was bothered by his foot throughout his rookie season, which is why Baltimore kept his snaps limited on game day. The 22-year-old first-round pick showed flashes in his first year in the NFL, catching 46 passes for 584 yards and seven touchdowns. He's a boom-or-bust fantasy commodity as a deep threat, but his ceiling is still very high in this Ravens offense led by quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson said that the team will "do everything we can" to keep running back Derrick Henry around. Henry, who will become a free agent next month, led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards and tied Aaron Jones with 16 rushing touchdowns in 2019. The bruising back finished second to only Christian McCaffrey in total fantasy points. In a run-first offense under head coach Mike Vrabel, the Titans would be crazy to let Henry walk. Between Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Tannehill is much more likely to move on in free agency. If Henry returns to Tennessee, he'll obviously be a high-end RB1 in fall drafts.
As of now, the Carolina Panthers have decided that they will move forward with quarterback Cam Newton (foot) as their starting quarterback, according to sources. Newton's foot is healing, but it will be a couple of months before he's game-ready, a timeline that complicates any potential trade. Newton will turn 31 in May and has missed 16 games in the last two seasons with shoulder and foot injuries. He played in just two games in 2019 before being shut down for the season. Newton's fantasy stock is the lowest it has been since he entered the league, but he could bounce back and be serviceable as a QB1 if he can get past his foot issues. Because of the injury risk, fantasy managers will be wary of taking him as their QB1 going into the 2020 season, but he could be a nice value if he can stay on the field.
The Cleveland Browns will likely be looking to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon this offseason, as he's due to make $15.25 million in 2020. Vernon will either be released or will need to take a pay cut to stay in Cleveland. If Vernon is released, the Browns could look to defensive end Everson Griffen or free safety Anthony Harris on the open market. New head coach Kevin Stefanski is familiar with both players from his time with the Vikings. The Browns will be looking to upgrade their pass-rushers and safeties in the offseason. Vernon, 30 this October, played in just 10 games in 2019 with the Browns and recorded just 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
There's a real chance that the Baltimore Ravens move tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason, and the Patriots could be involved, according to sources. The Patriots were heavily linked to Hurst prior to the 2018 draft. Hurst was selected with the 25th overall pick in the first round that year, but he's underwhelmed with 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons in the NFL and has fallen down Baltimore's depth chart behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. New England will be looking to beef up their receiver depth, including at tight end, so Hurst could be a player on the rise if he's dealt to New England. Of course, the Patriots might not have Tom Brady under center in 2020 either.