“Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.”—Magic Johnson
I’m good with Kansas City-Tampa Bay being in the Super Bowl. Neither conference title game was great, but it was football. And my only emotional investment on Sunday was in myself.
I really wanted my predictions to work out so I could come back here and gloat. As Uncle Vito once said, “A sportswriter who can’t gloat can never be a real sportswriter.”
Before we talk about the conference finals, I want to talk about Aaron Rodgers and his future. At the post-game press conference, he wouldn’t say what was ahead for him.
Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns, five picks, and for over 4,000-yards…and will likely be the NFL MVP. His head coach wants him back, but there’s a problem.
In what felt like a reach, Green Bay drafted Jordan Love in the first round (26th overall) last year. He didn’t play a snap this year, Rodgers wasn’t thrilled with the selection because of its message.
The message being, “Your replacement is in the house.”
Love’s drafting also kept the Packers from picking up another skill player, offensive lineman, or defender. It was a mistake.
If I’m Green Bay, especially after Rodgers’ year, I’m admitting the mistake and trading Love. Try to get a second-round pick, or a third and fifth (you figure out the combination). Those extra-picks spent on surrounding Rodgers with more talent encourages the Hall of Fame quarterback going into 2021.
And if I’m Love? I want out of Green Bay. If Rodgers leaves, the kid could lead them back to the playoffs, but anything short of a Super Bowl or conference finals appearance and he’ll be ripped apart.
Enter the Rams. I don’t know what sort of salary cap alchemy is needed to acquire a Matthew Stafford (a $33-million cap hit) and still pay Jared Goff…And no one is knocking down the door for Goff and the $34-million owed him next season.
But if the Rams can put a package of second and fourth-round picks together—A pair of threes and a fifth?—a former (borderline) first-round pick might be available. Available with three years left on a four-year, $12-million contract.
Break me off a piece of that!
I don’t know if Love’s going to be great. I don’t know if John Wolford is going to be competent. But we do no know that Goff has maxed out, and he’s clearly not great and, on a good day, barely competent.
Tampa Bay at Green Bay—Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
(Prediction: Packers 28, Buccaneers 24)
For the Packers, the comeback was working fine until Handless, Equanimeous St. Brown, dropped a deuce in the end zone. There’s an effort to credit Ndamukong Suh for getting a hand on the ball, but please…St. Brown dropped it.
Why wouldn’t Packers HC Matt Lafleur go for it on fourth down with a chance to tie the game? Was he afraid of not making it and leaving the Bucs stranded deep in their own end? Did he not feel comfortable with three timeouts in his pocket and a two-minute warning still in play? How was Aaron Rodgers unable to shame him into going for it?
Of course, a fourth-down decision wouldn’t have been necessary if Rodgers had made a bid for the goal line on third-down. Maybe he would have come up short, maybe he would’ve made it, maybe he would’ve put the Packers in a fourth and a foot circumstance?
Within the context of the play, the late pass interference call icing the game—was pass interference. Clearly. Was it going on all game? Absolutely. But in context, it was PI.
However, shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations for the flag being thrown? The play was made, the moment was done, and then the ref took everything away a 1,000-seconds later with a flag. Commence all Packer fans being filled with the spirit and speaking in strange tongues…and weaving a tapestry of obscenity that will hover in space above Lake Michigan for a millennium.
Leonard Fournette’s touchdown run wasn’t Marshawn Lynch, but an incredible simulation.
Final Green Bay Faux Pas: To go along with not going for it on fourth down, Rodgers not going for it on third down, and the deuce dropped by St. Brown…how does Scotty Miller get behind Kevin King at the end of the first half?
Tom Ten-Brady throws three picks, but none of them are turned into points by Green Bay. The dude threw some ducks, but he made the plays that had to be made. He made the plays Rodgers didn’t, and that’s why he’s going to his tenth Super Bowl.
Buffalo at Kansas City—Chiefs 38, Bills 24
(Prediction: Bills 34, Chiefs 31
If you watch enough football, you’re always able to define a turning point. When Buffalo kicker Tyler Bass doinked the extra-point, I knew the AFC title game was over. The Bills were up 9-0, but it was over.
The Chiefs’ victory boiled down to the world champions—still in their prime—beating a good team that’s still learning.
Respecting Tom Ten-Brady’s career, there’s nothing like Patrick Mahomes. People hate Ten-Brady now (because of all the winning), and they’re going to hate Mahomes after he wins a few more titles.
I can’t see hating Ten-Brady, or Mahomes. All Joe Montana did for a decade was kick the Rams butt. But the beauty of his game made him impossible to hate.
I get being unable to cover Tyreek Hill. That guy is Cool Papa Bell fast. But are defenses aware you don’t have to Social Distance from Travis Kelce…on the field! I’ve never seen a player of Kelce’s talent so consistently wide-open. It’s like he has “Leper! Do Not Touch!” written on his jersey.
Boston at Philadelphia: 76ers win—122-110
Jaylen Brown (42pts) and Celtics (8-6) cut the Sixers lead to 103-100 before Ben Simmons takes over with 11 fourth-quarter points (15 overall) and Philly (11-5) gets the win. Joel Embid scored 38 and grabbed 11-boards.
Denver at Phoenix: Nuggets win—130-126 OT
Bad loss for the Suns (8-6) at home. Devin Booker (31/5/5), Deandre Ayton (27/10), and Mikal Bridges (24/10) looked great…But the Nuggets (8-7) have the most unappreciated player in the league Nikola Jokić (31/10/8), and he was the difference.
Philadelphia at Detroit: 76ers win—114-110
Trap game after a big win at home against Boston. The 76ers (12-5) take a must-win game against the Pistons (3-13). Must win because you can’t beat the Celtics and then rollover (a Sixers trademark) the next night against one of the weaker teams in the league.
Joel Embid (33-points, 14 rebounds) and Ben Simmons (20/9/7) key the win after a four-quarter struggle.
NBA Games Seen: 43
The Dude abides…
1 Corinthians 4:2
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b
MeWe: Joe Torosian