CODE COVID: What the pandemic has taught us about long-term care
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
Business Tool Kit 2021
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
The Heroes of 2020
News and views following NFL championship-games Sunday, with the two losers transitioning to another important off-season, and the two winners gearing up for Super Bowl LV a week from this Sunday:
1. Would the Packers actually trade Aaron Rodgers?
NEWS: Sullen and angry just minutes following Green Bay’s loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC title game, the QB surprisingly said: “There’s a lot of unknowns going into this off-season. I’m gonna have to take some time away, for sure, and clear my head, and see what’s going on with everything. It’s pretty tough right now.”
That instantly led to speculation that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay, probably because of not being properly surrounded with enough talent to even get to another Super Bowl.
VIEW: This speculative dot-connecting is understandable, but I don’t believe it for a second. Why would the Packers want to trade away the perfect instrument for entrenched, wildly successful head coach Matt LaFleur’s offensive system? A guy who just had one of the top three or four statistical seasons by a quarterback in the NFL’s 101-year existence?
And you’re going to willingly trade THAT guy to another team? Maybe even an NFC-championship rival such as the Los Angeles Rams or San Francisco 49ers?
Are you crazy?
Long-time Packers beat writers watched Rodgers say the above words and concluded, no doubt correctly, that the 37-year-old sounded like he wanted out.
The man is under contract through 2023. And LaFleur made it clear he wants and expects Rodgers back: “I sure as hell hope so. I mean, the guy is the MVP of this league. He’s the heart and soul of our football team.”
The only way Rodgers could probably compel Pack leadership to trade him is if he convinces them he’d retire otherwise.
But to wind up where? Only the Packers in the NFC and Chiefs in the AFC have been to the last two conference championship games.
Know who’d rejoice most if Rodgers were traded? Every fan and employee of the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings — the Packers’ NFC North rivals.
Never do in sports what your opponents would love for you to do.
The fiery Rodgers, to me, always sounds barely able to contain his rage after a gutting playoff ouster. Such as after then-coach Mike McCarthy blew an NFC championship-game victory at Seattle six years ago.
Rodgers is just one of those athletes who gets especially surly and bitter immediately following a lousy defeat. And that’s OK.
Just don’t read so much into it.
2. Should Rodgers have tried to run it on that late 3rd-and-goal?
NEWS: Video replays seemed to show Rodgers had a lot of room to run, and maybe score, on a 3rd-and-goal from the Tampa Bay eight, with 2:15 left and the Bucs up by eight.
VIEW: As it was, Rodgers threw incomplete yet again from inside the 10 to his go-to man, Davante Adams. Then LaFleur opted to kick the field goal (whaaa?!) and you know the rest.
But could Rodgers have made it in?
Actually, probably not. When you freeze-frame the video at the moment he decided to throw it, while pretty much directly on top of the right hash mark, between the 11 and 12 yard lines, sure there was nothing but empty space between him and the front right side of the end zone.
High-school math proves the point.
Using the Pythagorean Theorem, we can deduce how far Rodgers had to run to the front right corner of the end zone, which probably would have been his safest route to pay dirt.
Rodgers was as close as 11 yards, perpendicularly, from the end zone when he made his decision to run or throw, or 396 inches.
The two nearest Bucs players were as much straight ahead of him — presuming Rodgers would have outrun the two chasing pass rushers behind him. Namely, inside linebacker Devin White and cornerback Carlton Davis, who together were doubling Packers wideout Allen Lazard and standing right on the goal line, and moving inside with Lazard.
For fair calculation purposes, let’s put them right on the line of the right hash when they would have seen that Rodgers was gunning it for the front corner.
Because hash marks by rule are 70 feet, nine inches from the sideline, White and Davis were 70 feet, nine inches from the front right corner end-zone pylon. Or 849 inches.
A right-angled triangle results if you connect these corner dots, and using the Pythagorean Theorem’s mathematical calculations we can deduce the “hypotenuse” — that is, the length of the straight path Rodgers would have had to run to reach that pylon.
And it’s 936.8 inches, or a hair over 78 feet.
No way he runs 78-odd feet to the pylon before either the speedy White or Davis would run only 70-odd feet to the same spot.
And even if Rodgers could beat them there, a Bucs defensive back was only at most seven yards deep into the end zone on the far right side, covering another Packers route runner. That defender would have been at most 25 feet from the pylon, and 21 feet from the goal line a few yards inside of the pylon.
No way THAT guy doesn’t get to Rodgers before he scores.
3. Where do the Bills need to get better?
NEWS: Buffalo seemed to come up short in a number of worrisome areas in Sunday’s decisive loss at Kansas City in the AFC title game.
VIEW: Buffalo’s offence more or less dried up as its January playoff march progressed, in large part because the team couldn’t run the ball this season without Devin Singletary spinning three times and juking six tacklers on every six-yard pickup.
And that’s because the offensive line can’t run-block worth a lick.
In my view Bills GM Brandon Beane — who annually has attacked his team’s primary off-season needs with gusto and effectiveness — will attempt to upgrade the O-line, perhaps more than most people think.
Don’t blame QB Josh Allen, or question his newfound elitism. Because at least two, if not all three, of his next-best WRs after all-pro Stefon Diggs were slowed by injuries against the Chiefs. That permitted the K.C. secondary to double-team Diggs with little fear of being burned by anyone else.
Result: Allen for perhaps the only time this season seldom found anyone open to throw to downfield. And that no doubt startled him, and caused him to hesitate in the pocket. Which led to all his sacks, hits and frenetic play.
Meantime, the Bills defence’s inability to pressure quarterbacks without blitzing finally caught up with them, too. But elite free-agent edge rushers aren’t cheap. To wit, Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett will make a fortune if the Bucs permit him to become a free agent in March.
4. What about Sean McDermott’s lack of aggressiveness?
NEWS: Buffalo’s head coach is taking a lot of heat, even from otherwise grateful and appreciative fans, for his distinct lack of boldness in certain situations at Kansas City.
VIEW: As the game was slipping away in the second and third quarters, McDermott kept opting to kick field goals, rather than go for it on two short-yardage fourth downs inside the 10.
You can’t beat this Chiefs team scoring like that in a big game. Just can’t.
I wonder if the fact that McDermott went into this game, as opposed to the Week 6 meeting against the visiting Chiefs, with a much more aggressive play-calling mindset defensively compelled him to make up for it by not being as aggressive in various ways on offence, which aggressiveness had worked so well for the Bills in going 15-3 entering Sunday.
Whatever the reason, McDermott needs to be more like Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians in these big games: “No risk it, no biscuit.”
5. Can the Chiefs overcome their latest O-line losses?
NEWS: Lost amid the hugging and celebrating under all that yellow and red confetti raining down on Arrowhead Stadium’s field late Sunday night was that Kansas City’s offensive line has taken yet another huge hit.
Starting left tackle Eric Fisher is done for the season with an Achilles tear.
VIEW: The Chiefs have lost one game over the past two seasons when Fisher has played, including Super Bowl LIV last February.
Know how many of Kansas City’s five O-linemen who started that Super Bowl are available to start Super Bowl LIV against Tampa Bay?
Just two: Centre Austin Reiter and right guard Stefen Wisniewski. And Wisniewski now — as then, but at left guard, against San Francisco — was primarily a backup all season pressed into starting duty because of injuries.
What about last Super Bowl’s other two starting O-linemen?
Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of Montreal in July opted out of playing this season, while right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (a 2018 all-pro) has been on IR since Week 7 with a back injury, and he isn’t expected back for the Super Bowl, head coach Andy Reid said Monday.
Once Fisher injured his Achilles late in the game against the Bills Sunday night, right tackle Mike Remmers — a New York Giant in 2019 — switched over to left tackle, and right guard Andrew Wylie (who started the first 11 games last season at left guard before a high ankle sprain ended his season) bumped over to right tackle, with Wisniewski coming off the bench to take his RG spot.
Nick Allegretti, a seldom-used backup in 2019, has started at left guard since the Schwartz-injury dominos of October.
So yeah, it’s a total patchwork O-line now for the Chiefs.
Fisher/Wisniewski/Reiter/Duvernay-Tardif/Schwartz of last Super Bowl has become Remmers/Allegretti/Reiter/Wisniewski/Wylie for this one.
And it’ll be that thrown-together fivesome’s job to prevent Tampa Bay’s wicked pass rushers — who sacked Aaron Rodgers five times Sunday — from making Patrick Mahomes’ life equally miserable in SBLV.
6. How much of a home-field advantage is it for the Buccaneers?
NEWS: In the 55th Super Bowl, Tampa Bay will become the first participating team to play at home.
VIEW: Normally a head coach downplays all advantages before any big game.
That’s not the kind of head coach Arians of the Bucs is, and that’s not the tack he took on Monday:
“I think the big advantage is we stay in our own beds, sleep here and just do our normal routine. Nothing is out of the ordinary until we hit the media sessions next week. Just to be able to stay in your routine, sleep in your bed and all that stuff — I think it’s a huge advantage.”
The Bucs presumably will even be able to stay in their home locker room, as home team in Super Bowls alternates yearly between AFC and NFC, and this year it just so happens to be the NFC’s turn to be the home team.
Now, it won’t be a home game in every aspect. The NFL takes over the stadium and runs the game, not the Buccaneers. So don’t be expecting pirate cannons, etc., to be firing every time a good play happens to the ‘home’ side.
After three consecutive road playoff games this month, and two of their last three regular-season games played on the road, Raymond James Stadium ought to indeed be a welcome sight — and site — for weary eyes.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021