Patriots

Madden simulations predict NFL Conference Championship results

Madden simulations predict NFL Conference Championship results

A trip to Miami for Super Bowl 54 will be on the line for the four remaining teams on Sunday.

We'll be treated to the AFC Championship matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs, then the NFC Championship featuring the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

Both games have the potential to become instant classics. But will they be closely contested, or will they be more one-sided?

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Our Madden simulations predict the latter. Here's how both sims played out, starting with Titans-Chiefs:

PASSING

Patrick Mahomes did Patrick Mahomes things vs. the TItans defense in this one. The 2018 NFL MVP was pretty much flawless, completing 26 of 34 passes and racking up 324 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Ryan Tannehill's nice run in Tennessee came to an end with an abysmal performance. He completed only 18 of his 37 pass attempts for a mere 167 yards and zero TDs. On the bright side, Tannehill didn't turn the ball over.

RUSHING

Teams have had no answer for Derrick Henry and the Titans running game, but roles were reversed in this simulation.

This time, it was Chiefs RB Damien Williams stealing the show with 143 rushing yards and a touchdown. Henry was solid, but not even close to the dominant force we've see over the last few weeks. He finished with a modest 14 carries for 74 yards.

RECEIVING

Coming off a sensational performance in the Divisional Round, Travis Kelce put on another show vs. Tennessee. The star tight end hauled in a whopping 13 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Other standouts for the Chiefs in the receiving game were Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill. A.J. Brown was the only Titans player to make much of an impact through the air.

DEFENSE

This was a clean game as far as turnovers are concerned, but there were plenty of sacks to go around.

The Titans sacked Mahomes six times in this game, while the Chiefs were able to get to Tannehill four times. Chris Jones and Jeffery Simmons contributed two sacks apiece for their respective teams.

TEAM STATS

SCORING SUMMARY

FIRST QUARTER

  • RB Damien Williams 5-yard TD run (7-0 KC)
  • K Harrison Butker 35-yard FG (7-3 KC)

SECOND QUARTER

  • K Greg Joseph 18-yard FG (10-3 KC)
  • QB Patrick Mahomes 6-yard TD pass to TE Travis Kelce (17-3 KC)
  • QB Patrick Mahomes 3-yard TD pass to TE Travis Kelce (24-3 KC)
  • K Harrison Butker 43-yard FG (27-3 KC)

THIRD QUARTER

  • K Harrison Butker 21-yard FG (30-3 KC)

FOURTH QUARTER

  • K Harrison Butker 41-yard FG (33-3 KC)
  • K Greg Joseph 20-yard FG (33-6 KC)

FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 33, Titans 6

Kickoff for the real thing is set for 3:05 p.m ET on Sunday in Kansas City.

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PASSING

Jimmy Garoppolo was sharp, completing 29 of 39 passes for 290 yards, two TDs and zero picks. The former New England Patriots backup QB was mistake-free, and that was the difference-maker for the 49ers.

Aaron Rodgers was strip-sacked in the second quarter, and his fumble was returned for a TD by 49ers defensive end Dee Ford. That was the dagger.

Other than that major mishap, Rodgers was solid going 23-for-35 with 259 passing yards and a TD.

RUSHING

The Packers defense didn't have an answer for 49ers RB Tevin Coleman, who rushed 23 times for 111 yards.

The tandem of Green Bay RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combined for 25 touches and 145 rushing yards. Jones contributed one of the Packers' two TDs.

RECEIVING

Allen Lazard paced the Packers receiving core with seven catches in the sim and tallied 80 receiving yards. Green Bay's star wideout Davante Adams hauled in six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.

For the 49ers, it was TE George Kittle and WR Emmanuel Sanders finding the end zone. Rookie Deebo Samuel contributed six catches for 83 yards.

DEFENSE

Other than Dee Ford's fumble return for a TD, there weren't any turnovers in this game.

As for sacks, it was DeForest Buckner with two for the Niners and Fred Warner tallying one more for good measure. Za'Darius Smith and Dean Lowry both brought down Jimmy G.

TEAM STATS

SCORING SUMMARY

FIRST QUARTER

  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo 14-yard TD pass to TE George Kittle (7-0 SF)
  • K Robbie Gould 48-yard FG (10-0 SF)

SECOND QUARTER

  • K Robbie Gould 43-yard FG (13-0 SF)
  • K Robbie Gould 48-yard FG (16-0 SF)
  • DE Dee Ford 29-yard fumble return for TD (23-0 SF)

THIRD QUARTER

  • K Mason Crosby 49-yard FG (23-3 SF)
  • QB Aaron Rodgers 13-yard TD pass to WR Davante Adams (23-10 SF)
  • K Mason Crosby 26-yard FG (23-13 SF)

FOURTH QUARTER

  • QB Jimmy Garoppolo 10-yard TD pass to WR Emmanuel Sanders (30-13 SF)
  • RB Aaron Jones 10-yard TD run (30-20 SF)
  • K Robbie Gould 40-yard FG (33-20 SF)

FINAL SCORE: 49ers 33, Packers 20

Kickoff for the real NFC Championship is set for 6:40 p.m. ET Sunday in San Francisco.

Curran: Why McDaniels is back and what it means

Where things stand between Tom Brady and Patriots as free agency looms

Where things stand between Tom Brady and Patriots as free agency looms

All’s quiet on the Tom Brady front at the moment.

Perfectly reasonable.

In contract negotiations, the Patriots are traditionally a team that waits … and waits … and waits … and then gets down to business clinically and dispassionately.

If an impasse hits, their approach is often, “See what’s out there. We’ll leave the light on for ya.”

They’ve done that with Moss, McCourty, Hightower, Bruschi and many others over the years. All came back and re-signed after brief free agent tours. Will they do the same with Brady?

Perhaps. But there are two big problems the team faces if it decides to do that.

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First, the Patriots can’t sit in the parking lot drumming their fingers on the steering wheel while every other team is in the store, trying Brady on for size.

They need to get in and shop for a quarterback too just in case Brady does decide to go to Indy, Tampa, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Carolina, Washington, Chicago or Miami. Saving Brady’s spot until he’s ready to answer? Dice roll. 

Second problem? The $13.5M that hits New England’s 2020 salary cap if/when Brady becomes a free agent on March 18 at 4 p.m. is a wrench in the works.

(SKIP ON DOWN IF YOU DON’T WANT THE BUSINESS BLAH, BLAH)

Need a refresher on why exactly that hit even exists? Here’s the simple summation from CBS’ Joel Corry where he explains the Patriots borrowing a bookkeeping strategy the Saints used with Drew Brees to give Brady a raise (not an extension) last August:

The Saints restructured Brees' contract last March for salary cap purposes by converting $16.2 million of Brees' $23 million in 2019 compensation into a fully guaranteed third day of the league year roster bonus. Since the roster bonus was fully guaranteed, it was treated like signing bonus under the salary cap where it was prorated over the life of the contract. The Saints added a 2021 contract year that also automatically voids on the last day of the 2019 league year. 

Brady's contract was reworked last August to raise his 2019 salary from $15 million to $23 million. Brees' most recent contracts with the Saints were seemingly used as a template in Brady's renegotiation. Two contract years for 2020 and 2021 with $30 million and $32 million salaries automatically voiding on the last day of the 2019 league year were included for cap purposes, so Brady's fully guaranteed $20.25 million roster bonus could be prorated over three years at $6.75 million annually through 2021 instead of just 2019. The renegotiated contract also contains a clause prohibiting the Patriots from designating Brady as a franchise or transition player.

The Patriots can’t play the same financial shell game. The expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement means teams can’t kick the financial can down the road into phony future years as the Patriots and Saints did with Brady and Brees.

If a new CBA is agreed to prior to free agency, that’s good news.

If not, they can play a new game with different toys using option bonuses or completion bonuses.

The issue with that is, the $13.5M cap hit from the voidable years and a competitive compensation plus making sure there’s room to get Brady better offensive support means a multi-year deal has to be done because his 2020 cap hit would be astronomical.

If a multi-year pact wasn’t what the Patriots wanted to do with a 42-year-old, they won’t love doing it with a 43-year-old. And if they do agree to a three-year deal, the team will then be in the uncomfortable spot of having to release Brady if he wants to keep on past 2020.

There is an existing sliver of cap-relief hope for the Patriots. According to our friend Miguel Benzan of the Boston Sports Journal (a crutch for me whenever I write cap-related stories), the Patriots could get credited for past charges against the cap related to Antonio Brown ($9M) and Aaron Hernandez ($3.25M).

I’m trying to find out if the team is anticipating that and/or actively trying to recoup. It would be a boon if that $12.25M were credited back before March 16, though, since it would nearly offset the Brady dead dough.

(REJOIN HERE IF YOU SKIPPED THE BUSINESS BLAH, BLAH)

So where do things currently stand? After conversations over the past few days, this is my understanding of where things are.

Negotiations will begin "in a couple of weeks." I interpret that as during or immediately after the NFL Combine which starts about February 26 and concludes March 1.

By that time, Brady should have back-channeled his way to an understanding of what’s out there. Last week, I wondered whether it was advantageous for the Patriots if teams did make their pitches to Brady before "legal tampering" begins on March 16.

My understanding is that the Patriots aren’t worried about other team’s financial pitches. Their business with Brady revolves around the direction of the 2020 offensive personnel,  Brady getting some input on that and Brady’s role in the team’s future. They aren’t going to be super-vigilant about tampering. 

Something worth noting is there is very little rancor right now. The situation is what it is. The sides are going to work to make it work. Why they are here, what could have been done to avoid this, who’s right, who’s wrong, who’s to blame? I’m not sensing it.

There’s been plenty in the past. Now – with Brady having the freedom to say, “No thanks, it’s been great…” and the team truly being in the “year-to-year” contractual situation they wanted, nobody seems to have an active resentment. Also, I think the gravity of what may loom – the specter of a historic 20-year run ending – has added an air of solemnity.

I’ve also heard we shouldn’t be expecting TOM BRADY FREE AGENT TOUR 2020: COAST-TO-COAST WITH THE GOAT! If Brady hits free agency, he may try to set up meetings at one location instead of creating a circus. That’s a “what I’m hearing…” so take it for what that’s worth.

Reiterating what I’ve previously reported but have had again mentioned, the “Patriots are willing to go north of $30M” report wasn’t something either side loved.

For the Patriots, it created a false expectation before any negotiations began and, from the perspective of the Brady camp, it missed the point of what his main issue is. 

Also, while negotiations haven’t begun, the team is plotting a course for adding players that fit Brady’s strengths to help on offense whether through free agency or trade. Tight end is a position of emphasis.

Finally, if Brady goes to another team? The people he’ll leave behind in Foxboro will be highly, highly motivated to have a 2020 season that will make Brady wonder if he made the right decision.

Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

Report: Raiders prepared to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60 million deal

We have an actual dollar figure attached to the swirling rumors of various Tom Brady free agency landing spots.

The Brady-to-Las Vegas speculation has been out there since TB12 was spotted chatting up Raiders owner Marc Davis at the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone fight in Vegas last month. Now, veteran NFL reporter Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (father of the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver) reports that Davis' Raiders are prepared to offer TB12 a two-year, $60 million deal.

It's interesting to note that Larry Fitzgerald Jr., like Brady, is a long-time interviewee of Jim Gray on Westwood One's broadcasts of Monday and Thursday night NFL games. 

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While Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Super Bowl Sunday that the Patriots are willing to go beyond $30 million a year to retain Brady, it's unclear if New England would make a multi-year offer, since the face of the franchise, who'll turn 43 in August, essentially worked under a one-year deal this past season. 

Our Tom Curran has reported that while the Patriots will "extend themselves" financially to retain Brady, money is likely not the most important factor to the QB.

As Curran wrote Friday:

The persuasion in the Patriots pitch has to revolve around "who" and not "how much." The team that Brady plays for in 2020 won’t be the winner of a bidding war, it will be the one that provides the best ready-made landing spot to compete for a championship and have a shitload of fun while doing it.

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