In news that won't surprise anyone, I'll be starting the newsletter off this week with a Patrick Mahomes update because his injury status is pretty much all anyone is talking about this week and I know that because I heard TWO separate conversations about it during my day off on Wednesday and I live in Nashville.
Since my nine-month-old daughter likes to get out of the house once in a while, we went to a local greenway for a walk. During that 1.5 mile walk, I heard two different groups of people debating whether Mahomes would play this week. I probably should have told them to subscribe to the newsletter so they can stay informed, but I didn't, because my pandemic hand guide says I shouldn't talk to strangers.
Anyway, the Chiefs tried to confuse everyone on Wednesday by originally listing Mahomes as a full participant at practice even though he was limited. The important thing here is that he's now practicing. This means he'll be practicing every day going forward unless there's a setback. At this point, the only news left to report is whether he gets cleared to play, so you'll want to be on the lookout for that announcement over the next 48 hours.
As for everything else, we have a lot of non-Mahomes stuff to talk about today, including the only Super Bowl fact that involves both Joe Biden and Tom Brady. With that in mind, let's get to the rundown. As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link.
1. Today's Show: Bold predictions for the AFC and NFC title games
Every Thursday during the postseason, the podcast consists of Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I making bold predictions for the upcoming round of playoff games. During the wild-card round, there were six games to choose from, so our bold predictions were all over the place. However, this week, there are only two games to choose from, so we started back-stabbing each other and stealing predictions from each other, which is why a few of the bold predictions below are so similar.
With that in mind, let's check out our bold predictions of the conference title games (We all made one prediction for each game).
AFC Championship bold predictions
Wilson: Josh Allen totals six touchdowns (Four TD passes, two TD runs). No quarterback has ever totaled six touchdowns in the history of the conference title game. The most total touchdowns by a QB came in 2016 when Matt Ryan threw four scoring passes and ran for one.
Brinson: Bills hold Travis Kelce to 50 yards or less. Kelce only finished one game all season with under 50 receiving yards and that came in a 43-16 win over the Broncos where Patrick Mahomes only threw the ball 23 times because the Chiefs were up so big in the second half. Basically, when Mahomes is throwing the ball, it has been nearly impossible to stop Kelce.
Breech: Josh Allen totals 450 yards (rushing and passing). No quarterback has ever finished a conference title game with 450 total yards, so this would set an NFL record. I think that means it qualifies as a bold prediction even if Brinson is trying to tell me it doesn't.
NFC Championship bold predictions
Wilson: Davante Adams more receiving yards than Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans combined. Either Wilson is expecting big things from Davante Adams or he's expecting absolutely nothing from the Buccaneers passing game.
Brinson: Aaron Rodgers five total touchdowns. This would tie the aforementioned Matt Ryan record for most total touchdowns by a quarterback.
Breech: Aaron Rodgers doubles Tom Brady's touchdown total. I think Brady is going to end the game with one or two TD passes, which means Rodgers will need to total two or four. I think he can get two or four.
Besides handing out predictions, we also graded each other's predictions. Plus we spent a lot of time talking about who's going to win each game. If you want a total breakdown of our predictions -- and trust me, you do -- you can listen to the entire episode of the podcast.
2. Tom Brady has played in more conference title games than 29 of 32 teams
Sometimes, it's hard to put into words just how dominant Tom Brady has been in his career, so to try and put things into perspective, I'm going to point out this stat: This Sunday's NFC title game will mark the 14th conference title game of Brady's career, which means he has now been to more conference title games than all but THREE TEAMS in the NFL.
Brady's 14 title games put him only behind the Steelers (16), 49ers (16) and Patriots (15). He's also tied with the Cowboys, who have been to 14. However, the Cowboys haven't been to an NFC title game since 1995, which means Brady has more NFC title game appearances than Dallas does this century. If the Buccaneers win on Sunday, Brady will become the first QB ever to play a Super Bowl in his home stadium and he'll also become just the second QB ever to lead both an AFC team and an NFC team to the Super Bowl (Craig Morton).
Our Jeff Kerr actually did a pretty deep dive on just how good Brady has been in conference title games. For instance, did you know he's 1-3 against Peyton Manning and 8-1 against everyone else? Brady's 14 appearances are also more than the next two quarterbacks on the list combined (Joe Montana and John Elway combined for 13).
For a look at just how dominant Brady has been and how many records he holds in the conference title round, be sure to click here so you can read Kerr's story.
3. Bengals getting new uniforms
I think I once read somewhere that a tiger can't change its stripes, but apparently, that doesn't apply to the Bengals, because they're going to be getting new stripes in April.
The team announced on Twitter that they'll be unveiling new uniforms later this year (You can check out the announcement by clicking here). However, one thing that won't be changing is the team's helmet, which is definitely good news. As the resident Bengals homer here at CBS Sports, I may be slightly biased, but I think the Bengals have one of the best helmets in the NFL. Although I've always been intrigued by the idea of them getting a white helmet with black stripes, I'm completely fine with the helmet the way it is and I think I'd actually be sad if they changed it.
The reason this change is notable is that the Bengals don't modify their uniforms very often. Between their expansion year in 1968 and 1980, they didn't change their uniform a single time. In 1981, they made a huge change when they switched over to the striped helmet while also adding tiger stripes on their sleeve (The Bengals made it to the Super Bowl in their first year with the tiger-striped helmet). In 1997, they made a few slight tweaks to their uniforms, but nothing major. In 2004, they unveiled the uniform that they're currently wearing today.
After 17 seasons, it looks like the Bengals are ready to change their stripes. If you need me, I'll be scouring the internet for all possible leaks and rumors.
4. Super Bowl announcements
We don't even know who's going to be playing in the Super Bowl yet, but that's not going to stop me from sharing some Super Bowl information with you guys. The NFL made two big announcements this week and those were the identities of the people singing the national anthem and the group of officials who have been selected to officiate the game.
- National anthem: The anthem will be performed by Grammy-nominated artists Eric Church and Jazmine Sullivan. Those two will be joining a long list of distinguished singers who have been chosen to sing the anthem. That list includes names like: Demi Lovato, Gladys Knight, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Luke Bryan, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, P!NK, Jordin Sparks, Idina Menzel, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Neil Diamond. Before Church and Sullivan team up to sing the anthem, they'll be preceded by H.E.R., who will perform "America the Beautiful."
- Officials: The referee for Super Bowl LV has been selected and it's Carl Cheffers, who in his 21st season as an NFL official. This will be the second Super Bowl that Cheffers has officiated and if this one goes anything like the first one that he was in charge of, then we're all in for a treat. Cheffers was the ref for Super Bowl LI when the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons. The rest of Cheffers' crew will be: umpire Fred Bryan, line judge Rusty Baynes, field judge James Coleman, side judge Eugene Hall, back judge Dino Paganelli, down judge Sarah Thomas and replay official Mike Wimmer.
The most notable name there is Thomas and that's because the fact that she's on the crew means that she's about to become the first female official in the history of the Super Bowl. The NFL picks its Super Bowl crew based on how they grade out during the season, so this means that Thomas has been an elite official this year. It's a well-deserved honor.
5. Drew Brees apparently played the entire season with major injuries
Unless your name is Tom Brady, playing in the NFL after you turn 40 is almost always a bad idea, and Drew Brees found that out the hard way this season. A big reason the Saints lost to the Buccaneers on Sunday is that the 42-year-old Brees played like a 42-year-old.
As it turns out though, Brees' body might have been more beaten up than we thought. Brees' wife, Brittany, shared some very interesting information on Wednesday on her Instagram account, which you can't follow, because it's set to private.
During a lengthy rant, Brittany said that Drew played a portion of the season with a torn rotator cuff AND a torn fascia in his foot.
From Brittany's Instagram (via Yahoo Sports)
"This has been the hardest year of our lives, yet in some ways one of the best," Brittany wrote. "This year has shaped us and strengthened us. It has shown us what is truly important, and what is not. I am so proud of you and the man you are. The fact that you played this entire year with a torn rotator cuff, torn fascia in your foot, ... then later 11 broken ribs a collapsed lung ... yet did not complain once ...makes me think I should not have taken the epidural while giving birth to the kids!"
Um, what!?!?! If Brittany isn't exaggerating, that means Brees played the ENTIRE year with a torn rotator cuff, which is notable for multiple reasons. For one, the fact that Taysom Hill saw a lot more playing time makes more sense, but it makes you wonder why they didn't create a package of plays for Jameis Winston. On the negative side, the Saints could possibly get in trouble by the NFL for not putting Brees on the injury report every week. If someone has a torn rotator cuff, then they'd have to be listed with a shoulder injury. Brees was listed for three different weeks with a shoulder injury, but that was it, and he was never listed with a foot injury.
6. The best piece of presidential trivia you didn't know you needed
We don't delve into politics here too often and that's mostly because I don't want my email inbox filling up with hate mail, but we are going to get a little political today, but that's only because our new president is now part of the answer to one of the greatest NFL/college/presidential trivia questions that has ever existed.
Here is the trivia question and you're going to want to make sure to memorize it so that you can stump people with it this weekend: Name the five colleges that have produced both a president of the United States AND a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Cue the Jeopardy music (RIP Alex).
Here are your five answers, in alphabetical order:
Delaware: Joe Biden, Joe Flacco
Miami (Ohio): Benjamin Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger
Michigan: Gerald Ford, Tom Brady
Naval Academy: Jimmy Carter, Roger Staubach
Stanford: Herbert Hoover, Jim Plunkett, John Elway
As someone who went to Miami of Ohio, this is a piece of trivia I have stumped people with for years. However, shout out to AP writer Josh Dubow for pointing out that Delaware should be added to this list now Biden's president.
On a somewhat related note, only one school on this list -- and one school ever -- has produced a president, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback AND a Super Bowl-winning coach and that school is Miami. Besides Big Ben and President Ben, Miami also produced Weeb Ewbank (Super Bowl III) and John Harbaugh (Super Bowl XLVII). Shout out to Miami.
7. The Kicker!
The kicker meltdown rankings are back for another week!
Of course, the one problem with making rankings this week is that there are only four kickers playing, so instead of a meltdown rankings, I'll just put them in order from the person I most likely expect to miss at least one kick to the least likely.
With the in mind, here's this week's "Most likely to struggle" rankings:
1. Tyler Bass, Bills: After going 1-for-3 during a windy divisional round, things might be even more difficult for Bass this week and that's because he might have to deal with sleet on top of wind on top of cold and maybe even some snow. Also, opposing kickers have hit just 60% of their field goals at Arrowhead Stadium this year (9 of 15), which could make for an ugly day for Bass.
2. Harrison Butker, Chiefs: Butker is the only kicker left who has missed at least one field goal AND one extra point this postseason. Butker's biggest issue is that he struggles with extra points, which isn't ideal when you play for a team that scores a lot of touchdowns. Including the postseason, Butker has hit just 87.5% of his extra points this year, which is the second-worst percentage of any kicker who attempted more than 20.
3. Ryan Succop, Buccaneers: Succop is definitely the wild-card of this group. On one hand, he's hit 30 of his past 31 field goals (96.8%), including going 7-of-7 in the postseason, so it doesn't feel like he'll miss a kick this week. On the other hand, he's playing in Green Bay, where the weather is projected to be 29 degrees with a chance of snow. In the past 10 playoff games at Lambeau Field, opposing kickers have hit just 73.9% of their field goal attempts (17 of 23).
4. Mason Crosby, Packers: Crosby hasn't missed a single field goal all season and I don't think that's magically going to change this weekend. Of course, that's what people thought about Vikings kicker Gary Anderson in 1998, but then he went on to miss his first field goal in two years during an NFC title loss to the Falcons.
As the son of a former NFL kicker (Jim Breech), I lose 10 minutes off my life every time a kicker misses in the playoffs, so I'll be rooting for no misses this weekend. I lost enough during the divisional round.