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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Chiefs aim to end 49-year Super Bowl drought Sunday vs Pats

Thu Jan 17 2:14pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The even-keeled executive with the crisp suit and winning smile stood inside the mostly empty Kansas City Chiefs locker room, his team having just won a home playoff game for the first time in 25 years.

He talked about how much it meant to their long-suffering fans. Spoke glowingly about coach Andy Reid, and his young superstar quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. He praised the rest of a team that captured its third straight AFC West title before knocking off the Colts in the playoffs.

It wasn't until Clark Hunt was asked about winning the AFC title game that he became emotional.

You see, the Chiefs were founded by his father, the late Lamar Hunt, who along with seven others in what would be called ''The Foolish Club'' founded the AFL.

The personable Texas businessman's importance to establishing the modern NFL was honored in 1984, when the league renamed the silver trophy awarded to the winner of the AFC championship game the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

So it's easy to understand why his son, now the team's chairman and the most visible face of the ownership family, would have tears in the corners of his eyes at the thought of holding it for the first time with a win over the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

''It's been a long time coming,'' Clark Hunt said. ''Since Andy came here we've had a lot of shots, but we finally have a chance to win the AFC championship, and to do it at home is so special for us.''

The Chiefs have never played an AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium. They won at Buffalo to reach the first Super Bowl, and in Oakland on their way to their lone Super Bowl triumph in 1970.

They lost their only other appearance in Buffalo in January 1994.

Indeed, the opportunity to return to the NFL's biggest stage for the first time in 49 years has been a long time coming. The Chiefs lost eight consecutive postseason games during one maddening stretch, and squandered the No. 1 seed along the way. They had great individual players - Tony Gonzalez, Priest Holmes, Joe Montana - yet never managed to hoist the AFC championship trophy.

Former coach Dick Vermeil, who took the Eagles to the Super Bowl and won it with the Rams, said this week that ''my biggest regret'' was failing to deliver it during his five seasons in Kansas City.

''It would be great. I mean, when your name is on it, that's a pretty big thing,'' said current Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who still remembers meeting Lamar Hunt during an ownership meeting years ago.

Hunt died in December 2006 at the age of 74.

''To have the opportunity to work with his kids and Clark in particular, I understand the importance of that,'' Reid said. ''Not that he has to tell me. He doesn't have to say anything.''

In fact, the Chiefs make sure everybody knows the importance.

''One of the awesome things we do with our player development team is that they take us through the whole history,'' Mahomes said. ''We come over to the museum that we have in the stadium and they take us through how he made the AFL, pretty much from scratch, and had this vision for what is now the AFC and combined it with the NFL and made this beautiful league.

''It truly is special for someone like that who has created your franchise,'' Mahomes added. ''You want to do whatever you can to bring honor to him and that family.''

The Patriots are no strangers to hoisting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, of course. They are playing for it for the eighth consecutive season, and the coach-quarterback combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have succeeded in hoisting it eight times since their first real season together in 2001.

But despite a perennial juggernaut standing in the way, there is a profound sense of confidence that surrounds the Chiefs these days, an unabashed optimism that can be felt all around town.

Fountains are colored red - at least, those that haven't frozen - and Chiefs banners hang off many of the city's iconic buildings. Fans are streaming into Charlie Hustle, a local vintage clothing store, for their ''Arrowhead Collection'' of shirts. Those who aren't making a buck off the Chiefs' playoff ride are spending a buck to support them, or in many cases several hundred bucks.

The stars are quite literally aligning: There is a ''super blood wolf moon'' due Sunday night, where the sun, Earth and moon line up and the moon is cast in a rusty (Chiefs-like) red tint.

The fan fever is not unlike the way the city embraced the Royals when they made back-to-back World Series appearances. And when they won the 2015 championship, some 800,000 turned out for the parade.

Imagine how many would show up if the Chiefs won the Super Bowl.

''It means a lot just to make it to this point,'' said Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, one of the team's elder statesmen. I've never had this opportunity, so I think it will means a lot to me, to (the Hunt family) and to the city.''

Yes, the Hunt family.

Clark Hunt knows better than to plan for parades before games are won. The Chiefs have come up short many times, and the sting of those disappointments still lingers after all these years. Yet the franchise is also on the precipice of something great, a potential salve to make that pain go away.

''It's very special, obviously, for our entire family,'' Hunt said. ''It's one of the goals that I always put out for the players at the beginning of the year. First thing we want to do is win that Lamar Hunt Trophy. Then we want to go to the Super Bowl and win that Lombardi Trophy.''

Player Notes
Ezekiel Elliott Jun 25 9:23am ET

No deal soon for Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is unlikely to get an extension in 2019 or next offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Dan Graziano. Elliott's option for 2020 is worth $9.099 million, and the team feels good about franchise tag numbers on him in 2021.

Fantasy Spin: Elliott remains one of the best options at the position in the first round of drafts.

Adam Shaheen Jun 25 3:03am ET

Chicago Bears TE Adam Shaheen lost seven pounds during the offseason, did jiu-jitsu and focused on his core strength and flexibility in an effort to try and stay healthy in 2019.

Matt Ryan Jun 24 6:43pm ET

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan said Monday, June 24, he's happy with his team's selections of G Chris Lindstrom and OT Kaleb McGary in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. 'I'm really excited about those guys ... they're tough, they're physical, they move well and it's gonna be a lot of fun to play behind them,' Ryan said.

Fantasy Spin: Ryan was sacked 42 times in 2018, the most since 2013. Only seven quarterbacks were sacked more times than Ryan in 2018. Some extra time to make his reads could only help Ryan improve on a third-ranked interception percentage of 1.2 from last season.

Matt Ryan Jun 24 6:33pm ET

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan said Monday, June 24, he's excited to be reunited with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Koetter served as the Falcons offensive coordinator from 2012-14 before leaving to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first as offensive coordinator in 2015, and then as head coach from 2016-18. He was re-hired on January 8 after being fired by the Buccaneers. He'll replace Steve Sarkisian, who spent the last two years as Atlanta's offensive coordinator.

Fantasy Spin: Ryan completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 13,928 yards and 86 touchdowns against 45 interceptions over Koetter's three-year run in Atlanta. Ryan was named to the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2014. The 34-year-old is being taken as the sixth quarterback in standard (non-PPR) fantasy drafts. He's a safe option for those who don't like to gamble at QB.

Russell Wilson Jun 24 6:13pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf has impressed QB Russell Wilson with his football knowledge so far as a rookie. 'Everybody knows about his ability to run and everything else, and jump and catch and all that. You guys have been talking about that for months, but I think more than anything else, it's his brain and how he processes information and how quickly he understands it. He's really intelligent. He really understands the game really well. He takes coaching really well. He gets extra work. He's a legit pro wide receiver. He's everything that everybody was talking about in terms of what he's capable of and more,' Wilson said.

Fantasy Spin: While Metcalf has done well to build an early bond with Wilson - and that's obviously a big deal - he still has questions to answer regarding his durability and ability to run precise routes. His talent makes him a fine dynasty asset, but Seattle's run-heavy offense figures to lower his ceiling and floor for fantasy purposes, at least in 2019.

Fletcher Cox Jun 24 3:23pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox (foot) told NJ.com's Zack Rosenblatt that 'everything is going good' and that his goal is to be ready for training camp. Cox sat out organized team activities while recovering from offseason foot surgery.

Amari Cooper Jun 24 2:23pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper told reporters Monday, June 24, he isn't thinking about his expiring contract but stated,' I do want to be a Dallas Cowboy for a long time.'

Fantasy Spin: Cooper also said in a recent interview with Pro Football Talk his goal for 2019 is 2,000 receiving yards - which would be an NFL record. It's obviously an unrealistic goal, as the 25-year-old would have finished with just under 1,300 yards receiving if his nine-game totals with Dallas were extrapolated over a 16-game season. The good news for fantasy owners is he was also on a 94-catch and 10-touchdown pace with the Cowboys. If he can come close to those marks this season, he'll be a solid WR1.

Marcus Mariota Jun 24 9:13am ET

Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been encouraged to take fewer hits by general manager Jon Robinson. 'The thing I've stressed to him, and I know our coaches have stressed to him is, Let's live to play another play,' Robinson said. 'Don't take that hit. If you feel the pocket coming down on you and you take off running, and the 'backer is coming off of coverage and he's coming screaming at you, throw the ball away. It's OK to punt, we'll get another crack at it. That's the main thing, it's stressing to him - to try as best as possible, like all quarterbacks do, to avoid getting hit.'

Fantasy Spin: Mariota's durability has been a problem with nagging injuries throughout his career. It has suppressed him to a low-end QB1 in fantasy.

Devin Funchess Jun 24 2:13am ET

Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess produced mixed results during organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp, according to beat writer Kevin Bowen, although head coach Frank Reich said he was 'very encouraged' by what he saw during spring practices. 'We knew right away, you could tell day one that he was smart. (He was) not going to have a problem grasping the system,' Reich said. 'Then it's just a question of getting used to the way we do things, the way we teach things and then our schemes. I just thought he showed a very high aptitude for that.'

Fantasy Spin: To be fair, Funchess is learning a new system and getting acclimated to a new team, and he didn't have the luxury of working with Andrew Luck, who was held out of the offseason program. Funchess struggled with Jacoby Brissett, but he won't be working with him unless disaster strikes. Based on his struggles in 2018, Funch is only worth a late-round roster spot, but he could very well emerge as the No. 2 in Indy, and a decent WR4 or flex fantasy option sooner rather than later.

Matt Breida Jun 24 2:03am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Matt Breida will be in a crowded backfield heading into 2019 as long as everyone is healthy.

Fantasy Spin: Breida will be in a fierce battle in training camp and the preseason with Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert and Jeffery Wilson. Coleman is considered the frontrunner at this point, so Breida might be battling McKinnon to be up during the regular season if everyone is healthy, as Mostert is considered a lock due to his prowess on special teams.

Raheem Mostert Jun 24 2:03am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is expected to be one of three running backs active during the regular season since he is the team's best special-teams player.

Fantasy Spin: Mostert has shown in the past that he can be effective running the ball, but that's unlikely to be his role in 2019 with the likes of Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida creating a logjam in the backfield. He has minimal fantasy appeal as long as everyone is healthy and ready to play.

Jerick McKinnon Jun 24 1:43am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Jerick McKinnon (knee) is expected to receive clearance near the start of training camp, as he makes his way back from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Fantasy Spin: The Niners have depth at the position with Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, so McKinnon won't be rushed back until he is 100 percent. It also wouldn't be surprising to see him as a healthy inactive early in the season as a precaution, as long as Coleman and Breida are healthy themselves. As such, McKinnon is a risky fantasy proposition heading into 2019.

Tevin Coleman Jun 24 1:43am ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman is considered the odds-on favorite to be the closest thing to a lead back, beat writer Matt Maiocco suggests, especially since he has a history in head coach Kyle Shanahan's system.

Fantasy Spin: Coleman was the only player among Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert to practice during the offseason, so he likely has a leg up, too. He is likely your best bet when diving into the San Francisco running back pool on draft day.

Ronald Jones II Jun 23 11:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones said he is focused on putting last year behind him and earning his opportunities going forward. Jones also said that he has spent more time watching the veteran backs to learn how to be a pro and has simplified how he catches passes.

Fantasy Spin: Jones has received positive marks from the coaching staff this offseason, and it sounds like he is trying to put his disastrous rookie season behind him. Of course, it remains to be seen if he will ever produce on the field, but if he puts it all together, he could take over the Tampa Bay backfield and emerge as a RB2. He's a great lottery ticket to grab later in drafts.

Chase Edmonds Jun 23 11:33pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds will have a 'really nice role in the offense' this season, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Fantasy Spin: Kingsbury has also said he plans to use David Johnson as the feature back, so Edmonds isn't likely to have a big enough role to be more than a handcuff for fantasy owners in redraft leagues. That being said, he is an intriguing stash candidate in dynasty formats.

Jeff Driskel Jun 23 9:43pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals QB Jeff Driskel will likely be cut if QB Ryan Finley plays well enough in the preseason to be used as the backup quarterback, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Taysom Hill Jun 23 9:43pm ET

New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill said he feels more comfortable with the responsibilities of being a wide receiver this season. 'I think it will be even easier because there was definitely a learning curve from a fundamental standpoint of getting out of breaks and routes and blocking all that I feel more comfortable doing that.'

Hunter Henry Jun 23 9:23pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry has been making impressive catches during spring practices, according to head coach Anthony Lynn. 'Hunter is just doing what Hunter Henry does,' Lynn said. 'He makes plays.'

Fantasy Spin: Henry's ability has never been questioned, but an injury derailed what was supposed to be a breakout 2018 campaign. A year later, his upside hasn't changed, and Henry should be viewed as a low-end TE1 candidate.

Hayden Hurst Jun 23 9:23pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Hayden Hurst (hamstring) was able to participate in minicamp after dealing with a hamstring injury during OTAs.

A'Shawn Robinson Jun 23 9:03pm ET

Detroit Lions DT A'Shawn Robinson (knee) was able to participate in minicamp, but he didn't seem as 'well conditioned' as the other defensive linemen, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.