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Big Ben Retires, Denver Hires New HC, Conference Championship Preview

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

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The Conference Championship round is this weekend and it’s hard to ask for better matchups on Sunday. Before we dive into that, we had some intriguing headlines from Thursday to recap.

Ben Roethlisberger Officially Announced His Retirement
We all knew it was coming, but Ben Roethlisberger made his retirement official in a video announcement on social media.

Roethlisberger spent 18 years with the Steelers after being drafted out of Miami of Ohio in 2004. He promptly went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year after completing 196 passes on 295 yards for 2,621 yards and 17 touchdowns. During his tenure, he went to the Pro Bowl six times and won the Super Bowl twice.

In total, Roethlisberger’s numbers are substantial over 249 games that include 41 fourth-quarter comebacks and 53 game-winning drives. His 5,440 completed passes and 64,088 passing yards both rank fifth in the NFL and he is second in the NFL for passing attempts at 8,443.

The obvious next step for the Pittsburgh Steelers will be to replace their quarterback. Who they will go with remains a mystery. The quarterback draft class is decidedly thinner than last year and they also have backup players such as Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph who are also vying for the job.

Interesting Coaching Hire in Denver
This has been a rather sluggish interview process for the nine teams that need to find a new head coach. We can shorten that list by one with the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett to be the Denver Broncos’ new head coach.

Of course, this is news on its own, but this is even more significant for the future quarterback carousel. Namely, Aaron Rodgers since Hackett was this season’s offensive coordinator for the Packers.

We all know the drama that ensued last season with Rodgers’ dislike of how Green Bay ran the organization. It dominated the headlines and narratives during the entire offseason. Very little is likely to change this season, and Denver was smart to address two issues (head coach and future quarterback) with one hire.

The craze is just beginning and increasing with intensity after a quote from Rodgers last season resurfaced.

He has also gushed over Hackett in interviews such as The Pat McAfee Show.

This is just the beginning of a very long and dramatic discussion about where Rodgers will end up next season. Again.

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Conference Championship Preview

Bengals @ Chiefs Sunday 3:00 pm ET
The two games on Sunday for our Conference Championship viewing pleasure are nothing short of spectacular. The first game on the slate is a rematch between the Bengals and Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

In Week 17, Cincinnati pulled out a 34-31 victory over Kansas City to clinch the AFC North and the game was explosive. Joe Burrow threw for 446 yards on 30 passes and four touchdowns with a 76.9 passing completion percentage. Patrick Mahomes threw two touchdown passes on 26 attempts for 259 yards and a 74.3% passing completion percentage.

Now, just a few weeks later, they will clash yet again, this time in Kansas City. Burrow and the Bengals are on fire. Not only does he have Ja’Marr Chase, who is a candidate for rookie of the year, but WRs Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are also lethal. Even if the Chiefs can shut down Chase, they still have Higgins, Boyd, and TE C.J. Uzomah to deal with. Not to mention RB Joe Mixon who is having a career year.

Despite the very un-Chiefs-like slump during the season, they have gotten back on track just at the right time. Where the Bengals have Chase, Higgins, and Boyd, Mahomes has Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle, and Mecole Hardman.

This matchup should be a back-and-forth points bonanza and I cannot wait to see it.

49ers @ Rams Sunday 6:30 pm ET
Where our early slate will be a high-flying shootout, the drama in the matchup will be slightly different but no less entertaining. The 49ers are 6-0 against the Rams and 2-0 just this year. The first matchup was a blowout 31-10 win, but their second matchup in Week 18 was more exciting. Down 17-3 at halftime, the 49ers battled back to win 27-24 in overtime.

Some questionable decision-making by both Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford has resulted in pick-sixes and turnovers. Still, the offenses and the offensive minds behind both teams are incredible. And they are rivals. In the Conference Championship.

A healthy Cam Akers and a more comfortable Odell Beckham Jr. are certainly good for the Rams in this matchup. Let’s not forget about the explosive Cooper Kupp (like anyone could) who puts moves into his routes that takes the pants of defenders.

The Rams aren’t alone when it comes to having superstar talent. Elijah Mitchell has been dominant this season and Deebo Samuel has erupted onto the scene as a sensational wide receiver and powerful running back. The golden leg of Robbie Gould is yet another weapon in the 49ers’ arsenal who took out the Rams in Week 18 and then eliminated the Green Bay Packers from the postseason.

There is no doubt that there is a history between these two teams and their head coaches. Can Shanahan make it 7-0 on Sunday or will McVay finally get that monkey off of his back and advance to the coveted Super Bowl?

Sunday is going to be a very exciting day for football.