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PITTSBURGH — I was sad when Buffalo lost to Cincinnati last week but not for the reasons you might think. I am not a Bills fan — don't particularly care for the Bills, to be honest — and while the Damar Hamlin story was captivating and inspiring, no, that didn't have me rooting for the Bills, either. My interest in the Bills winning had everything to do with my desire to see the Bills play the ...

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The single most impactful player in the AFC Championship Game plays quarterback for the Chiefs. The biggest unknown in the AFC Championship Game is the quarterback for the Chiefs. You can see why the Vegas oddsmakers have had a tough time with this one. Patrick Mahomes will play through a high-ankle sprain, his true effectiveness to be determined. Even by his own admission. ...

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Football can be a beautiful game, replete with dazzling athletic feats of finesse, improvisation and grace. Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles won’t be that kind of football. No, the Niners and Birds are set to play a brutal, facemask-to-facemask, mud-and-blood contest in Philadelphia. A trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. If scars ...

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has two major offensive players at his fingertips in receivers Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. The two are the first pair of Bengals wideouts to gain 1,000 yards in back-to-back season since Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2006 and 2007. They've combined to catch 18 touchdown passes and will look for when Cincinnati plays at Kansas City on Sunday in the AFC championship game for the second straight year. But their futures in Cincinnati aren't a given, considering the Bengals are famously frugal and will have to pay up to keep Burrow around.

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PHILADELPHIA — Inside the practice bubble at the NovaCare Complex, taking up the entire wall behind one of the end zones, is a wide-angle photograph from what was, in all likelihood, the game that featured the loudest moment at Lincoln Financial Field. The photo is from the 2018 NFC championship game, and it spans to show the Eagles and Vikings on the field and most of the crowd in the stands. ...

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PHILADELPHIA — This could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry. What Rick told Louis at the end of "Casablanca," Howie Roseman could tell John Lynch at 3 p.m. Sunday when the Eagles host the 49ers. They run the two best teams in the NFC, with innovative young coaches, dynamic defenses, promising quarterbacks, and, most significant, a lot of the top talent locked up for the foreseeable ...

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PHILADELPHIA — With four NFL teams vying Sunday for two spots in the Super Bowl, most everyone is focused on the quartet of young quarterbacks. That's fair. They touch the football on just about every play. The Philadelphia Eagles have a ton of other critical assets. Well, make that 1,620 pounds of them. That's the collective listed weight of the Eagles offensive line, the best in football and ...

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PITTSBURGH — Maybe it's because I'm from Buffalo, but from this vantage point, conference championship games feel just as big and sometimes bigger than Super Bowls. That's especially true the first time around, which was Bills 51, Raiders 3, if I recall correctly. (And how could I forget?) One's entire football existence — as a player, fan or coach — is geared toward getting to the Super Bowl, ...

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PHILADELPHIA — The starting quarterback quit during the fourth quarter of the season opener, the coaches walked out a few weeks later after their checks bounced, and the turf was so thin that it felt like concrete. This — the inaugural season of an indoor football league — was Nick Sirianni’s introduction to professional football, where the players made $300 if they won and $200 if they ...

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The 49ers can claim they have the NFL’s best roster. They have arguably the league’s best running back, linebacker, defensive end, fullback, and tight end. But there is no debate about who the 49ers’ best player is. Trent Williams is 34 years old and weighs 320 pounds, give or take. He has never scored a touchdown in the NFL. He has never carried the ball or caught a pass ...

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TAMPA, Fla. — Clyde Christensen was asked to review the play sheet to see if anything was missing. Less than a week after retiring as Bucs quarterbacks coach, part of the purge of nine assistants from Todd Bowles’ staff on Jan. 19, Christensen received a text message and follow-up phone call from Peyton Manning, who is the AFC coach for the NFL’s first Pro Bowl flag football game. “Peyton said, ...

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LOS ANGELES — Trenton Irwin sat at the end of the dining room table — but not for long. The teen watched for nearly 30 seconds as others tasted their food, and then were catapulted in succession through a window, into a China cabinet and French doors. When Irwin finally took a bite, he was launched backward into the wall of a faux fireplace with more velocity than a Joe Burrow pass. “Man, ...

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PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Hammond stood five years ago in the auditorium of the Eagles practice facility, invited at the end of a team meeting to speak about the franchise’s new charitable foundation. She had been recently hired to start the Eagles Autism Foundation and needed some help. She needed the players — not just the quarterback, but everyone — to buy in. Finally, a hand went up. It was ...

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Christian McCaffrey is ready to make good on his promise to play in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Whether the 49ers will also have Elijah Mitchell available to share the load remains to be seen. McCaffrey was removed from the injury report entirely and coach Kyle Shanahan said he was “full go” during practice Friday before the 49ers’ team ...

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes stood in front of the media for about nine minutes Thursday, and for a short portion of them, he recapped how he spends the other 23-plus hours of his day. You know, the time we don’t see him. His preparation for the AFC Championship Game opens with an early-morning trip to the practice facility for treatment on a high-ankle sprain, ...

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Ryan Nielsen, formerly the co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for the Saints, was hired as the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Friday. Nielsen joined the Saints staff in 2017. Since, the Saints have recorded 281 sacks, the second-most in the NFL over that period. The Falcons recorded 21 sacks this season, which ranked 31st in the league. The Saints had 48 sacks. ...

The Six Degrees of Steve Wilks is a quick and easy way to connect the dots of racism in the hiring of NFL head coaches. From Kliff Kingsbury to Lovie Smith to Matt Rhule to Jim Caldwell to Jeff Saturday to Frank Reich, it shows just how hard it is for Black coaches to crack the top ranks. 

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MIAMI — Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis came to the University of Miami from Michigan in February 2022 as the reigning recipient of the Broyles Award that goes to the nation’s top assistant coach in college football. On Friday morning, Miami coach Mario Cristobal announced in a one-sentence news release that Gattis “has been relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator.’’ The firing comes ...

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains in concussion protocol a month after entering it, according to a league source, and now will be unable to participate in the Pro Bowl. Tagovailoa was not among the original selection of three AFC quarterbacks for the NFL’s All-Star exhibition taking place Feb. 2-5, but with the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe ...

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