Mon Jan 6 6:06pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates following an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Kansas City Chiefs won 31-21. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans nose tackle Brandon Dunn (92) celebrates after an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws a touchdown pass to running back Carlos Hyde (23) during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Houston. The Texans won 22-19 in overtime.(AP Photo/Mike Marshall)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with fans after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs will welcome the Texans to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday for the divisional round of the playoffs, a rematch in name only of their Week 6 nail-biter won by Houston on a fourth-quarter touchdown.
The Chiefs are so markedly different that their early October game is nearly meaningless.
The Chiefs were in the midst of a shaky 6-4 start to the season, their defense was still adjusting to Steve Spagnuolo's new 4-3 scheme, and their injury list was about as long as the receipt at a CVS. Five starters were missing because of injuries, including offensive linemen Eric Fisher and Andrew Wylie, and a handful of other key contributors were hobbled by ailments.
Among them was quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was still dealing with a sore ankle.
Well, the league's reigning MVP is back to putting up mind-blowing stats, the Chiefs' postseason bye has the team as healthy as it has been all season, and a defense that was once the Achilles' heel has become one of the biggest reasons that Kansas City is among the favorites to reach the Super Bowl in Miami.
''Every team I think changes throughout the season. They develop their personalities,'' said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, whose team was back at work Monday. ''We all have highs and lows. You kind of work through that and here you sit. We're not the same as we were at the beginning. They're not the same as they were at the beginning. So here we go.''
The easiest change to parse out between the Chiefs of three months ago and the current bunch is in personnel.
Fisher is back from his groin injury and Wylie from his ankle sprain. Chris Jones is back from his groin injury, fellow defensive tackle Xavier Williams has returned from injured reserve and linebacker Anthony Hitchens - voted one of Kansas City's playoff captains - has returned from yet another groin injury.
Those big numbers that Mahomes has been putting up have come thanks in part to the emergence of rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who was still getting his legs under him in October, and the return of veteran Sammy Watkins, who was absent during the first meeting with Houston because of a hamstring injury.
The Chiefs also lost cornerback Kendall Fuller in that game. He is back to 100 percent, too.
There have been other personnel changes, of course, and not all of them have been good. The Chiefs lost defensive end Alex Okafor to a torn pectoral muscle late in the season, and rookie safety Juan Thornhill had his dynamic debut season cut short when he tore his ACL in a Week 17 win over the Chargers that helped the Chiefs earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
But even those losses have been offset by some noteworthy additions. First came defensive tackle Mike Pennel, who has helped to shore up the run game. Then came seven-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who was waived by the Arizona Cardinals and claimed by the Chiefs just in time to play in their final two regular-season games and get fully acquainted with the defense for what he hopes is another championship push.
''This team plays with tremendous swag,'' said Suggs, who climbed another notch on the career sack list with one against the Chargers. ''That's the No. 1 edge that a football player has: confidence. When you have a team that's playing with swagger, and the head ball coach is encouraging that, that can help you in January in playoff football.''
That swagger comes in part from a defense that has leaned on newcomers Frank Clark and All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, the latter of whom played for the Texans last season. They put together a streak of 10 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown late in the season, shutting down Tom Brady and the Patriots along the way, and had become so dominant that one of the league's best offenses was left playing little more than a supporting role.
It certainly isn't the same hodgepodge bunch that was still picking up the scheme in Week 6, when Deshaun Watson ran for two scores and threw for another in leading the Texans to a 31-24 victory.
''We have some great momentum heading into the postseason,'' Mathieu said. ''I know my teammates feel the same.''
NOTES: Reid said everybody participated in Monday's workout, a good sign for a team that dealt with plenty of illnesses late in the regular season. ... Mathieu and Hitchens were joined by Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, P Dustin Colquitt and K Harrison Butker as playoff captains. They were chosen in voting by their teammates. ... Former Chiefs S Ron Parker announced on social media Monday that he was retiring. ''He came in as a small-college guy and he just did a great job,'' Reid said. ''I told him he'd be a great coach. He just has a great way about him.''
Interview with a Champ
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill put together another strong performance on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill caught nine of his 11 targets for a team high 172 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill wasn't able to get a touchdown in this contest, but he was dominant nonetheless. Hill has had a phenomenal season and he will look to keep that going versus a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in Super Bowl 55. He remains one of the best at his position and will be a top option for those participating in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 29 of his 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. WR Tyreek Hill had nine catches for 172 yards, and TE Travis Kelce had 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. WR Mecole Hardman had two catches for four yards and a score to go along with a 50-yard run and a lost fumble on special teams. RB Darrel Williams rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for nine yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had six carries for seven yards and a score. LB Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, and S Juan Thornhill broke up four passes.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored a touchdown in his return to action versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. The rookie player a minor role on Sunday with Darrel Williams being the featured back and Le'Veon Bell (knee) inactive. CEH picked up just seven yards on six carries and caught one of his two targets for zero yards, but it was good to see him return to action for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in Week 15. Edwards-Helaire will now have two weeks to rest up before facing a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in the Super Bowl and he should be avoided in DFS for that contest.
Kansas City Chiefs running Darrel Williams rushed the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Williams has performed well with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined, but the rookie returned on Sunday and figures to play a bigger role in the future. Williams will also have to compete with Le'Veon Bell (knee) who was inactive on Sunday and could return for the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are a pass heavy team and will face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense Super Bowl 55. That will make Williams a risky option in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes helped lead his two to their second consecutive Super Bowl with a victory against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes was his usual self and completed 29 of his 38 pass attempts for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed the ball five times for five yards. Mahomes is now the only player in NFL history to reach three straight championship games before the age of 26 and will now go to his second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes is putting up legendary numbers in his young career and he will square off against Tom Brady and a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense for the chance to win his second Super Bowl ring in two weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end had a monster night versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Kelce has been setting all kinds of records this season and he has now jumped Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards in a season that includes the postseason for a tight end. Kelce had 13 catches on 15 targets for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce remains the top option with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs and he should be expected to play a big role in the Super Bowl versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kelce remains the top tight end option in the league and he will be one of the safer options in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had himself a day versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hardman had a rough start to the contest by dropping a punt that would lead to a Bills touchdown, but salvaged his day by catching two of his three targets for a 3-Yard touchdown and four total yards on the evening. He also picked up 50 yards on his lone carry. Hardman is an exciting player, but remains a shaky play for managers with the Chiefs having so many options on offense. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) also sat out this contest and his return would factor into Hardman's snap count. Hardman is always capable of breaking a big play and he will look to do that versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went over 100 receiving yards in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. He became the first tight end in NFL history with five postseason games of 100 or more receiving yards.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense played another strong game in a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forcing one interception and a fumble in the huge win. The Buccaneers' pass rush was fueled by two players- linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks and four quarterback hits, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks. Rising star Devin White led the team in tackles with 15, as he was a thorn in the side of the Packers' offensive plans all game long. Tampa Bay's defense will have its hands full in the Super Bowl against either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though this unit is playing some excellent football at the right time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one pass for 29 yards in his team's 31-26 win over the Packers. Gronkowski went catch-less through three quarters before picking up 29 yards on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Tampa Bay for a field goal. The former Patriot has nearly been an every-down player for the Buccaneers in the playoffs but has done little as a pass-catcher, as he's taken a backseat to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. No stranger to the big game, Gronkowski will get a chance to redeem himself in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate played a key role in another playoff victory for his team. Brate produced just 19 total yards, though he caught a third-quarter touchdown that helped extend the Buccaneers' lead to 28-10. The Harvard product exceeded 50 yards just once in the regular season but has accomplished the feat twice in Tampa Bay's three playoff wins. Tom Brady clearly has a trust for Brate as a pass-catcher, something that appears likely to continue as Tampa Bay prepares to be the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) suffered a shoulder injury in the second half of the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. He will have two weeks to recover before Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller saw extended playing time with Antonio Brown (knee) sidelined and made the most of it. Miller caught two passes for 36 receiving yards and a touchdown in the NFC title game victory. He came up with a huge play at the very end of the first half, hauling in a 39-yard bomb from Tom Brady with just seconds left until halftime. Miller has shown a knack for making big plays when given the playing time, as he has three scores this year of 30 yards or more. His services may not be needed in the Super Bowl if Antonio Brown (knee) is healthy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin enjoyed a strong game in Sunday's NFC title game win over Green Bay. Godwin hauled in five of a team-high nine targets for 110 receiving yards. He came up with a huge, 52-yard grab that led to a Leonard Fournette touchdown in the first half. Godwin has exceeded 70 receiving yards in four of his last five contests and has led the Buccaneers in targets in each of their three playoff wins. While Antonio Brown (knee) will have a good chance of returning in time for the Super Bowl, Godwin should remain Brady's top target for the big game in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II was stifled by the Green Bay defense, though his team will still be advancing to the Super Bowl. Jones carried the ball 10 times but produced just 16 yards, as he failed to find any room to run on the Packers' front. He's taken a backseat to Leonard Fournette during the playoffs, though the coaching staff seems committed to keeping this backfield as somewhat of a split. Jones should be well-positioned for a bounce-back performance in the Super Bowl regardless of opponent, as both the Bills and Chiefs have had their struggles stopping the run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught three of eight targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. Most of Evans' production came in the first half, as he found himself free of Jaire Alexander's coverage on the first series of the game. He beat corner Kevin King in the end zone for a score, his 15th total touchdown of the season- including the playoffs. He did struggle with some drops, though he'll get a chance to rectify that in the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay will await the winner of the Chiefs-Bills game.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught four passes for only 22 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tonyan led the NFL in the regular season, among tight ends, with 11 touchdowns but was held in check in this game. The Packers tried to get Tonyan on the run with some bootleg passes but the Buccaneers did an excellent job tackling on the edges. The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakout campaign but could be over-valued heading into the offseason due to touchdown-regression next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball 12 times for 55 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 31-26 win over the Packers. Fournette added five catches for 19 yards. The star back delivered a highlight-reel touchdown in the first half, bouncing a run to the outside and pulling off an impressive spin move en route to the end zone. He's been very productive for Tampa Bay during their playoff run- averaging 20.7 touches and 104.3 scrimmage yards per game along with three scores in three contests. Fournette should continue to operate as the 1a to Ronald Jones II's 1b when Tampa Bay plays in the Super Bowl.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught three passes for 62 yards in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Lazard saw six targets in the game and made some nice contributions as the Packers played from behind most of the game. Lazard got off to a solid start this season but injuries prevented him from taking his game to another level. The 25-year-old finished the regular season with 33 receptions for 451 yards with three touchdowns. But the Packers head into the offseason still looking for a true complementary receiver to produce alongside star receiver Davante Adams. Whether Lazard can step into that role will depend on his development during the offseason.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine passes for 67 yards with one touchdown in the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa Bay did all it could to contain Adams and, for the most part, did a solid job. But Adams is too talented to be shut down for long and picked up his 20th (regular season and playoffs combined) touchdown of the season. The elite receiver was able to move the chains on some smaller receptions but was unable to truly bust out. Adams finished the regular season with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns.. He then backed that up with 18 receptions and two touchdowns in two playoff games. Adams will sit atop the fantasy charts among wide receivers heading into the offseason.