January 2015

Like sandlot players when they were kids, Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin chose sides on Wednesday night. This time, they were drafting some of the best football players in the NFL for Team Carter and Team Irvin, the Pro Bowl matchup on Sunday. Quarterback Andrew Luck of Indianapolis went No. 1 to Team Carter. Irvin chose Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as No. 2.
A cheaters tag continued to swirl Wednesday around the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots amid reports the NFL found they used under-inflated American footballs in a playoff rout last Sunday. The Boston Globe and ESPN reported the ongoing league investigation has found the Patriots used the softer balls -- making them easier to grip, throw and catch in the prevailing cold and rainy conditions -- during a 45-7 home playoff romp over Indianapolis. Each NFL team provides 12 footballs that its offensive unit uses in a game, balls that are checked by referees before the game to ensure they meet proper inflation levels and other NFL standards. The Globe said that it received a letter from the NFL saying officials inspected the balls used by the Patriots at half-time and found some that were improperly inflated, using different pressure gauges on each to confirm the finding.
It's easy to link an NFL coach to drafting a player he had in college. That's how more than a few mock drafts had the Buffalo Bills and Doug Marrone taking Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who Marrone coached in college, with the eighth overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. Nassib went in the fourth round to the New York Giants. So plan on a lot of speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles will somehow land quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota, Oregon's Heisman Trophy winner, played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly in college. And, it turns out, the Eagles are reportedly trying to move up to take Mariota. NJ.com , citing "a person familiar with the Eagles' offseason plans," said the team will try to move up and get Mariota. That's where it gets tricky. The Eagles have the 20th pick of the first round. Mariota is expected to go in the top few picks, maybe first overall, which presents a problem. In 2012, when Robert Griffin III was the second pick of the draft, the Rams got two first-round picks and a second-round pick to move from No. 2 to No. 6. That's three premium picks to move up four spots. The Bills sent a future first-round pick to move up five spots to No. 4 to draft receiver Sammy Watkins last year. What will the Eagles need to trade to move from No. 20 to No. 1, the Liberty Bell? "It's probably going to take moving up twice to do it," the source told NJ.com. "There's going to be some wheeling and dealing involved." Expect this rumor to stay hot for the next three months leading up to the draft. It's a natural one, and Kelly has raved about Mariota before. But if the Eagles actually pull off a deal (deals?) to get Mariota, it will probably take so much it would make the RG3 trade look like the Redskins were shopping for that pick at the dollar store. And it might not make sense to trade away years of valuable draft picks and ruin the organizational depth for a quarterback when Kelly has already had relatively good success with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez playing quarterback. So any Eagles fans who are hoping for Mariota might want to be careful what they wish for. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
Time for the Baltimore Ravens to start searching for a new offensive coordinator - again. The Ravens thought they might be able to avoid this annual exercise when Gary Kubiak declared last week that he would return for a second season. The vacancy that was created when the Broncos and coach John Fox parted ways put in motion a chain of events that ultimately sent Kubiak to Denver (his hiring was announced Monday) and left the Ravens looking for an offensive coordinator for the fourth time in four seasons.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the dominant coach-quarterback pair in the NFL. Brady threw for 226 yards and three touchdowns, Belichick got his league-high 21st postseason win and the New England Patriots routed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in the AFC championship game Sunday night. The Patriots (14-4) will face defending champion Seattle (14-4) on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona, as they seek their first Super Bowl win in 10 years after winning three in four.
No coach has more postseason wins than Bill Belichick. No quarterback has been to more Super Bowls than Tom Brady. Belichick and Brady earned their sixth trip to the big game - and Belichick got his 21st postseason win - with the second-most lopsided AFC championship ever, 45-7 before a raucous, rain-soaked crowd Sunday night. We're on to Seattle,'' Belichick said, adapting the rallying cry he repeated, ''We're on to Cincinnati,'' after a loss at Kansas City dropped the Patriots to 2-2.
There is a lot to look forward to when Wilson's Seattle Seahawks, the defending champions, take on Brady's New England Patriots, the dominant franchise of the 2000s, in the Super Bowl at Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1. Seattle can become the first team to win consecutive NFL championships since Brady, Belichick and Co. did it a decade ago.
It's long been the belief in New England that the NFL caused the Spygate scandal to be overblown. No matter the Pats' interest in moving on, here come the same old suspicions.
Andrew Luck made no excuses after his worst game as a pro came in the biggest game of his young career. ''My play was not up to par for where it needs to be to give you a chance to beat a quality team like them,'' Luck said after the New England Patriots ended the Indianapolis Colts' season with a 45-7 victory in the AFC championship Sunday. Playing in steady rain from the start, the dome-team Colts (13-6) never got on track a week after upsetting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos on the road. Luck completed just 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.
So we've got us a decent little Super Bowl matchup  — the New England Patriots vs. the Seattle Seahawks — in a battle of the top two seeds in each conference. That leaves us 13 days to break down the matchup ad infinitum and go through all the tangible X's and O's. (Trust me: We'll do it, too.) But let's step back a bit and take a look at the big picture. What are the major storylines heading into Super Bowl XLIX? We came up with the top five: Brady, Belichick go for 4 The New England Patriots return to the scene of the crime — Glendale, Ariz. — where their perfect season was ruined in early 2008. After winning 18 straight games up to Super Bowl XLII, the Patriots fell to the New York Giants in dramatic fashion. That, many Patriots fans felt, was supposed to be their fourth title, but they didn't win that one and haven't won one since, despite three championships in a four-year span from 2001-04. Head coach Bill Belichick has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, two more with the Giants as an assistant coach and will be going for No. 6 overall. He'll be seeking his fourth title with Tom Brady as his quarterback, which would tie the duos of Joe Montana-Bill Walsh and Terry Bradshaw-Chuck Noll. Of course, Bradshaw and Montana never lost a Super Bowl game; Brady has lost two, but he also will become the first QB to start in six Super Bowls. And a Patriots loss would mean Brady has lost three straight Super Bowls, which has been accomplished (is that the right word?) by only three quarterbacks: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton.  Does Brady need a fourth championship to seal his legacy? Click on the video above for some Shutdown Corner perspective on that. The Pete Carroll Bowl Carroll has had a strange head-coaching existence. He failed after one year as the New York Jets' coach in 1994. He returned as a head coach three years later with the Patriots, going from 10-6 to 9-7 to 8-8. That was a tough act to follow, replacing Bill Parcells as coach. The players were surprised by his college-like approach, which paled in comparison to the gruff Parcells, who had earned the veterans' begrudging respect. After three years in New England, Carroll's act had run its course. But it's clear the man can coach a little football. First, he dominated at USC and then was hired by the Seahawks, going 50-30 in the regular season the past five seasons and doing his best work in the postseason, winning eight of 12 games and going for back-to-back Super Bowls. Is there a revenge factor here? No. Carroll might take slightly more pleasure in beating the Patriots and owner Robert Kraft, the man who fired him, but it's clearly not going to be his main motivation or any kind of distraction — even though he'll be asked about it all this week and next, especially when the New England media get to him in Glendale. Oh, and what coach did Kraft hire to replace Carroll? That would be Belichick. Decent call there. The last time a coach faced his former team in the Super Bowl? Jon Gruden against the Oakland Raiders, which he won in rousing fashion. Revis vs. Sherman debate Who is the best cornerback in the NFL? Expect a few words on that matter leading up to the Super Bowl. Both Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis overcame slow starts this season to get back to the All-Pro level for which they are known. Sherman is the younger of the two, and perhaps the most outwardly brash, but he also suffered a left elbow injury — and some reported possible nerve damage — in the game on some friendly fire on a hit from teammate Kam Chancellor in the third quarter on Sunday. Sherman says he'll play in two weeks. Which, of course, only adds another layer of intrigue to this fascinating debate. Expect both men, however, to have strong feelings about this discussion. They famously have gone toe-to-toe on Twitter to hash this thing out for the world to see. Both of them made interceptions on Sunday to help their respective teams make a Super Bowl. But they also have connections to the teams they are facing on Super Sunday. Sherman famously got in Brady's face after the Seahawks beat the Patriots in Seattle in 2012, and Sherman commemorated the event with a T-shirt with the caption: "U MAD BRO?" And the Seahawks reportedly were interested in trading for Revis when he became availble as a member of the New York Jets and then-GM John Idzik (a former Seahawks employee), who instead dealt Revis to Tampa Bay. Old vs. new greatness at quarterback Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. Tom Brady won two Super Bowls in his first four seasons, and three in five. Russell Wilson is going for his second title in three seasons. They might have totally different styles, different cultural backgrounds, different body shapes and different physical traits. But Brady and Wilson have more in common than you might initially think. They're smart, good-looking, Big Ten-bred future politiicians with baseball backgrounds and the knack for delivering clutch performances in big situations. Of course, neither man had his best game Sunday, with Wilson throwing an unsightly four interceptions against the Green Bay Packers and Brady throwing one and playing so-so in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts. Seahawks dynasty? We shall see. Win here and it's sealed up. The last back-to-back champs? The Patriots, of course, in the 2003 and '04 seasons. But these days, winning two Super Bowls in any short period of time equates a dynasty. Even though the Patriots' dynasty talk didn't start until they won their third title in a four-year period a generation ago. Plus, when you consider just how young the Seahawks are and how much of their roster will still be under contract after this season, it's possible — even if they lose this Super Bowl — that they could remain in the dynasty hunt for years to come. Is there a little extra motivation for the Patriots to prevent the Seahawks from gaining that franchise notoriety, seeing as how they were the last team to really achieve that? Perhaps. This game is full of storylines, and we haven't even dug into the nitty gritty — or mentioned Gronk! — yet. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

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