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Jimbo Fisher Fires Back At Nick Saban: ‘Some People Think They’re God’

Even in the offseason, college football rivalries never disappoint. Jimbo Fisher shot some fiery comments back at Nick Saban after the Alabama coach stated that Texas A&M “bought every player” in its top-ranked 2022 recruiting class.

“We never bought anybody,” Fisher angrily said in a press conference Wednesday night. “No rules are broken. Nothing was done wrong. It’s a shame that you’ve got to sit here and defend 17-year-old kids and families and Texas A&M. Because we do things right. We’re always going to do things right. We’re always going to be here. We’re doing a heck of a job.”

Among Texas A&M’s class of 30 commitments and two transfers includes eight five-star prospects — including defensive linemen Walter Nolen, the second-ranked player nationally — and 20 four-star prospects. As ESPN notes, the class is regarded as the top class in the era of recruiting rankings.

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The 56-year-old head coach didn’t name the seven-time National Champion Saban personally, but wasn’t coy about who he was referring to either. “It’s despicable that a reputable head coach can come out and say this when he doesn’t get his way,” Fisher said.

“The narcissist in him doesn’t allow those things to happen. It’s ridiculous when he’s not on top.” Fisher also signaled that Saban — whose own 2022 recruiting class is ranked second by 247Sports with three five-star players — has his own skeletons in the closet.

“Some people think they’re God. Go dig into how God did his deal. You may find out a lot of things you don’t want to know. We build him up to be the czar of football. Go dig into his past, or anybody’s that’s ever coached with him. You can find out anything you want to find out, what he does and how he does it. It’s despicable.”

Fisher, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach on Saban’s staff at LSU from 2000 to 2004, negatively compared that time to his time spent learning under Florida State’s Bobby Bowden. “There’s a reason people I ain’t back and worked for [Saban]. Don’t wanna be associated with him.”

Saban’s comments first arose during a meeting with business leaders Wednesday night. “I mean, we were second in recruiting last year. A&M was first,” Saban said. “A&M bought every player on their team — made a deal for name, image, likeness. We didn’t buy one player, all right? But I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to sustain that in the future because more and more people are doing it. It’s tough.”

Saban stated that Alabama players made $3 million doing it the “right way” and that only 25 players were able to leverage NIL (“name, image, and likeness”) deals. Saban also claimed the problem with the NIL deals — which were established in 2021 after a long fight over college players’ entitlements to financial compensation — is that coaches are “trying to create an advantage for themselves.”

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Saban isn’t a stranger to controversy. He previously rebutted claims that Alabama used NIL deals to entice prospects to the school. “We never cheated to get a player. We never paid players to come to our school,” he said.

It’s not the first time Fisher has blasted NIL claims, either. In February, he defended the school after Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin took a dig at them, saying Texas A&M would incur a luxury tax on the 2022 class. Nick Saban made comments similar to the ones said Wednesday at that time as well, though he later said he “wasn’t accusing anybody.”

Suffice to say, the off-field drama will certainly contribute to the SEC schools’ bitterness against each other. While Alabama holds an 11-3 all-time record versus Texas A&M, the Aggies broke an eight-year losing streak in 2021, winning 41-38. The teams will face off this year in Tuscaloosa on Oct. 8.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady To Join Fox Sports As Lead NFL Analyst Following Career

Following his playing career, quarterback Tom Brady will be joining Fox Sports as their lead NFL analyst. While the terms of Brady’s contract were not disclosed, the New York Post reported it to be a 10-year, $375 million deal.

It’s quite a historic contract on multiple levels if the report is accurate. Over his career, Brady earned over $302 million. He’s set to earn $15 million in 2022, meaning he’ll make $58 million more while sitting in a booth. Brady will also earn $7 million more annually than broadcaster Jim Rome, who makes $30 million a year.

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However, Fox corporate spokesman Brian Nick has disputed the report of Brady’s deal and value. “What has been reported isn’t an accurate description of the deal and we have not released details beyond what was disclosed on our quarterly earnings call,” Nick said.

The signing of Brady was first announced Tuesday by Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch during a corporate investors call. Brady will call games alongside play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt, and work as an “ambassador” with respect to “client and promotional initiatives.”

The real question now is when Brady will finally quit. The 44-year-old announced his retirement in January, only to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two months later for his 23rd season. Given his competitive nature, one could assume Brady wasn’t happy with last season’s divisional round loss.

For Fox Sports, meanwhile, the coup of Brady is a huge — and necessary — one. The company lost announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast this offseason, with Burkhardt replacing Buck.

The New York Post added that ESPN also showed interest in adding Brady to its broadcasting group, though given its star-studded cast of announcers, there wouldn’t have been much room for Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion. While Brady continues to play, former All-Pro tight end Greg Olson will work alongside Burkhardt as an analyst.

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That shift in announcers was just one of many happening this offseason. Elsewhere, Al Michaels left NBC and Sunday Night Football to join Kirk Herbstreit on Amazon Prime’s new exclusive coverage of Thursday Night Football. Of course, given Tom Brady’s name recognition, his announcement certainly the biggest splash of them all and could help Fox to bring in more viewers down the line.

Brady also represents just the latest quarterback to step into the broadcasting world. Former Dallas Cowboy Tony Romo joined CBS Sports back in 2017. He turned into a masterful game-caller, and is now earning $18 million per year, the third-highest mark among sports broadcasters. On opposing channels, brothers Peyton and Eli Manning teamed up on ESPN’s well-received “Manningcast” broadcast for Monday Night Football, while Drew Brees joined NBC for Sunday Night football.

Certainly, the NFL — and those calling it — reign supreme on television. The league made up 75 of the 100 most-watched broadcasts in 2021, with the Super Bowl (91.63 million viewers) sitting in the top spot. Fox is set to broadcast two of the next three Super Bowls.

Over his career, Brady has thrown for 624 touchdowns and 84,520 passing year (both NFL records) and shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, the three-time MVP threw for 43 touchdowns and a league-leading 5,316 yards against just 12 interceptions, registering a 102.1 quarterback rating.

NBA Playoff Preview: Suns Look For Finals Redemption, While It’s Anyone’s Game In The East

With the play-in tournaments coming to a close, the NBA playoffs are ready to kick off. While there was a clear, dominant 64-win team during the regular season in the Phoenix Suns, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll steamroll their way to a championship, one they’ve been aching for ever since they lost in the Finals last year. There are plenty of contenders who could conceivably make their way into June, with some pretenders in between.

In the West, the (No. 1 seed) Suns will take on the (No. 8) Los Angeles Clippers/New Orleans Pelicans (pending play-in result); the (No. 2) Memphis Grizzlies play the (No. 7) Minnesota Timberwolves; the (No. 3) Golden State Warriors go against the (No. 6) Denver Nuggets; and the (No. 4) Dallas Mavericks play the (No. 5) Utah Jazz.

The East features the (No. 1) Miami Heat against the (No. 8) Atlanta Hawks/Cleveland Cavaliers; the (No. 2) Boston Celtics playing the (No. 7) Brooklyn Nets; the (No. 3) Milwaukee Bucks versus the (No. 6) Chicago Bulls; and the (No. 4) Philadelphia 76ers against the (No. 5) Toronto Raptors.

According to analytics site FiveThirtyEight, the 51-31 Celtics have the highest odds to win the NBA Finals at 31%, followed by the Suns at 21%. The defending champion Bucks sit third with 13%, with the Warriors and Heat tied at 8%.

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If you’re hoping for March Madness-style play in Heat v. Hawks/Cavaliers and Suns v. Clippers/Pelicans, don’t get your hopes up. There have only been five instances of an eight seed pulling off a victory against a one seed, and they were bolstered by injuries or favorable matchups. Unless Devin Booker or Jimmy Butler goes down, Miami and Phoenix should be moving on easily, no matter the opponent.

Likewise, experienced, playoff-built teams like the Bucks and Warriors should also look to win in five or six games. The Grizzlies, the second-youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 23.9, are favored by many to win their first playoff series since the 2010-2011 season.

Closer matchups could involve the Joel Embiid-led 76ers against the Raptors, where Philadelphia went just 1-3 against Toronto in the regular season. Additionally hurting them will be the partial loss of All-Defensive player Matisse Thybulle (3.4 STL%), who’s unable to play in Canada due to his vaccination status.

The Mavericks will need Luka Dončić, the seventh-highest scorer in the league, healthy in order to overcome the Nuggets and reigning MVP Nikola Jokić, though skepticism by NBA insiders show Dončić may not be ready for the series opener due to a mild calf strain. Analyzing Denver, The Dallas Morning News noted that while Dallas’ defensive style has been able to slow Jokić, he can still cause frustration on the boards.

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The most fascinating series might end up being the Celtics versus the Brooklyn Nets, a team that — what once looked to be a potential dynasty — now finds itself as the seventh seed. Of course, the players don’t exactly match that seeding. Oft-injured Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who put up 29.9 and 27.4 PPG respectively, will be available.

As ESPN senior writer Kevin Pelton notes, Brooklyn is 10-5 in games since the James Harden trade where Durant and Irving both play. Meanwhile, Boston could be without Robert Williams III, who put up a 22.1 player efficiency rating and 102.4 defensive rating (highest in the league) during the regular season.

Still, Boston possesses higher-power offense in Jason Tatum (26.9 PPG, 4.6 defensive win shares) and Jaylen Brown (23.6 PPG, 47.3 FG%). Pelton explained that because of Boston’s talent, Brooklyn will need to step up their performances – much more than what they’ve shown over the past few weeks against obvious lesser matchups.

“I think the outcome of the series will ultimately depend on Brooklyn’s ability to reach a higher level than we’ve seen in the last few weeks,” Pelton wrote. “The Nets didn’t exactly dominate a series of teams that were lottery-bound, short-handed or both.”

The playoffs begin on Saturday, April 16 with the Jazz and Mavericks kicking off at 1:00 p.m. ET.

DeShaun Watson And His Ground-Breaking Deal Amid Hot Topics At NFL Owners Meetings

For Cleveland Browns fans, it’s a good time to sit back and dream of potential division titles and playoff victories. For Cleveland Browns executives… well, it’s a good time to try and wipe off the spray painted target on your backs.

At the NFL’s owners meetings in West Palm Beach, new Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson has heavily been at the center of discussions due to his unprecedented new contract given to him by Cleveland shortly after the blockbuster trade that saw him leave the Houston Texans in exchange for three first-round picks, a third-round pick, and two fourth-round picks.

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Despite the year-long controversy surrounding Watson due to allegations of sexual assault and 22 civil cases still pending — in addition to an inevitable NFL suspension — Cleveland signed Watson to a fully guaranteed, $230 million deal that sees a $34.4 million raise (through signing bonuses) this year from his 2021 base salary of $10.5 million. It’s $80 million more than the previously record-setting amount of money guaranteed at signing.

“It is a complete and utter game-changer. And the rest of the league, by and large, is not happy about it,” CBS Sports’ NFL insider Jason La Canfora wrote, explaining that the landscape of contracts has changed drastically, with players now holding more control than ever when it comes to their future earnings.

Gone are the days where owners can avoid guaranteeing money for more than two years in a row, with teams now feeling the heat to either follow Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, or attempt to either rework league rules or abuse franchise tags. “Like it or not, this Watson deal has ushered the NFL into the kind of financial outlays that have long been the norm in the NBA and MLB,” La Canfora said.

The shockwaves Watson’s deal created will be apparent soon, with premier quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson inching closer to free agency. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledge the ramifications of the contract affecting extension talks with Jackson, with negotiations to become “harder.”

“Damn, I wish they hadn’t guaranteed the whole contract. I don’t know that [Watson] should’ve been the first guy to get a fully guaranteed contract. To me that’s something that is a groundbreaker, and it’ll make negotiations harder with others.”

Meanwhile, younger QBs in Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert — who each have three years left on their rookie contracts assuming the fifth-year option is exercised — will have more leverage than ever given their ages and production, which La Canfora noted could be trouble for the Bengals and Chargers given their stingy spending history.

Speaking to La Canfora, former NFL team president Joe Banner said the situation could negatively impact conservative smaller-market teams in the long-run, while being extremely beneficial to big market teams who not only have the power, but the will to spend. “I suspect the league will do something about this,” Banner stated. “This rule comes down to competitive balance, which they really, really do care about.”

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Of course, Watson being the player to receive this type of deal is also controversial, especially when considering the Browns’ working of the contract to where Watson will only receive a base salary of $1.035 million. With that structure, it minimizes the amount of monetary loss Watson will suffer in the event of a suspension, with him only seeing $57,500 per game lost.

Cleveland had further backlash in regards to their diligence behind the trade, opting not to talk to any of Watson’s accusers or their attorney despite Haslam’s claims of a “comprehensive evaluation process.” According to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the league has no timetable on the investigation, though he noted a league punishment will not be affected by outside legal developments.

Among the other topics that La Canfora reported were frequently discussed include the tweaking of the NFL’s playoff overtime rules — which were heavily scrutinized this past winter — to allow both teams to receive the ball, and the sale of the Denver Broncos, whose’ price tag could reach $4 billion.

MLB Free Agency: Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman Nab Massive Deals

With the MLB lockout in the rearview mirror and the season creeping closer, teams are now hustling to add crucial pieces to their rosters in an ever-growing arms race between top contenders. Of course, there are always surprises to be had, such as with the case of third baseman Kris Bryant.

In a very unexpected turn of events, the Colorado Rockies signed the 30-year-old Bryant to a seven-year, $182 million deal on Wednesday. It’s the second-largest contract given this offseason behind Corey Seager’s 10-year, $325 million signing.

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In 144 games last season with the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, Bryant hit .265/.353/.481 with 25 home runs, 73 RBIs, 86 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases. Bryant, a former MVP and four-time All-Star, registered a 1.1 WAR, the second-lowest season mark of his career.

From an outsider’s perspective, it’s difficult to say what the Rockies’ plan is here. The team finished fourth in a very tough NL West with a 74-87 record, and haven’t added many additional pieces beyond Bryant that would push them significantly above that win area. Fangraphs currently projects Colorado’s odds for a championship at 0.0%, with a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs.

Even more confusing is Colorado’s prior moves to eliminate cap space by trading homegrown talent Nolan Arenado, a six-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove award winner, to the Cardinals before the 2021 season. Arenado signed a nine-year, $275 million contract with Colorado back in 2019, which meant if they had kept the third baseman, they’d actually be set to pay him less ($179 million) in the same time the majority of Bryant’s contract lasts.

Of course, all players are different, so perhaps the Rockies feel more confident about Bryant’s value and versatility in a hitter-friendly environment over that time than Arenado. However, most would agree Arenado is likely to age better while having less injury concerns.

The Rockies weren’t the only western team to nab a premier player. After losing Seager, the Los Angeles Dodgers pivoted by signing 2020 NL MVP first baseman Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million deal. Last year, Freeman hit .300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs, 83 RBIs, and scored a career-high 120 runs.

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As ESPN notes, Freeman’s deal is the second-highest average annual value (AAV) for a first-baseman ever at $27 million, right behind Miguel Cabrera’s $31 million AAV from the contract he signed with the Detroit Tigers back in 2012. With the deal, Los Angeles’ odds for the World Series rose from 6-1 to 5-1 at Caesars Sportsbook.

It’s another star for the Dodgers, who already possess former MVPs in Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, and Cody Bellinger. Freeman, 32, will bring a deadly combination of power and contact to a lineup that, along with Betts and Bellinger, features Trea Turner and Max Muncy.

For Atlanta Braves fans, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Freeman became a favorite amongst fans — as well as a respected clubhouse leader — during his 12 years in Atlanta. Freeman had previously rejected the $18.4 million qualifying offer the team presented. Still, it’s not as if Freeman’s time was wasted. Atlanta’s success over the last half decade culminated in a 2021 World Series victory.

“We went through the very highs together and some lows but those lows is what made last year so special,” Freeman said on social media in a letter to the fans. “I gave everything I had in and day out and I hope you guys saw that as well.”

Elsewhere in the league over the past week, outfielder Kyle Schwarber signed a four-year, $79 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Cubs, and the Braves replaced Freeman with first baseman Matt Olson in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

NFL

NFL Sees Flurry Of Moves Topped Off By Russell Wilson Trade, Aaron Rodgers Extension

While NFL free agency isn’t set to kick off until March 16, teams have already begun to reshape their rosters in attempts to win now, or start rebuilding for the future.  One of the most significant storylines heading into the offseason were the bevy of uber-talented quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and DeShaun Watson — who have been disgruntled and desiring a fresh start.

Fans didn’t have to wait long for a resolution on two-thirds of the trio. On Tuesday, the Seattle Seahawks traded Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick (114th overall) to the Denver Broncos for two first-round picks (2022’s ninth overall and a 2023), two second-round picks (2022’s 40th overall and a 2023), a 2023 fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, tight end Noah Fant, and defensive linemen Shelby Harris.

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For Denver, the trade was absolutely vital. Since 2016, the Broncos have started 11 QBs, a collection comprised of has-beens, journeymen, failed prospects, and unknowns. The result hasn’t been pretty, with a 39-58 total record and no playoff appearances over that span.

The 33-year-old Wilson — who had grown displeasurable in Seattle under head coach Pete Carrell despite years of success that resulted in a Super Bowl win — certainly looks to be the missing piece, and won’t have to carry the weight. Denver has done a solid job of building up their offensive core with promising young pieces like receivers Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, and Courtland Sutton, along with running back Javonte Williams.

As for Seattle, trading away a nine-time Pro-Bowler is never an easy task. While the four high picks will definitely give the Seahawks a jumpstart towards acquiring younger talent, some experts like ESPN staff writer Bill Barnhill don’t believe it was a good enough package in return.

“No, I don’t think [it’s a good return]. The Seahawks are certainly getting plenty of volume back for one of the best players in franchise history, but it’s more quantity than quality.”

Lock — a former second-round pick — threw for 15 interceptions, a 57.3 completion percentage, and possessed a 75.4 QB rating in his last full season of starting back in 2020. Meanwhile, Fant has yet to reach over 700 receiving yards in a single season.

While Barnhill was surprised at the lack of quality the Seahawks were able to acquire, he reasoned that “maybe that wasn’t in the cards for a player in his mid-thirties who is about to get a massive extension.”

Elsewhere in the league, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has announced he will be returning to play for the Green Bay Packers next season. Initially, it was reported that Green Bay and Rodgers signed a four-year, $200 million extension that would make him the highest paid player in NFL history with a $50 million annual salary. Rodgers, 38, later tweeted out the report was “inaccurate,” and that neither a deal nor a signing is official.

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The four-time MVP’s and Green Bay’s relationship has been a rollercoaster for quite some time now. Rodgers had previously been upset with the team’s drafting, which included taking QB Jordan Love in the first round back in 2020.

Afterwards, Rodgers said that while he had the desire to play into his 40s with the Packers, he continually kept an enigmatic stance on his future, bringing up the possibility of retirement on multiple occasions.

Eventually, it would lead to boycotts and missed offseason practices before a contract restructuring occured on the last year of his former deal, making a possible separation  — one that seemed all but certain to happen at one point — between the two parties after the 2021 season easier.

The Packers are certainly showing they’re on board with Rodgers for the next couple seasons, franchise tagging his favorite target Davante Adams. Green Bay’s Super Bowl odds improved from 15-1 to 12-1 at Caesar’s Sportsbook and is the favorite to win the NFC, while Denver’s odds improved from 25-1 to 12-1.

MLB To Begin Canceling Regular Season Games If Lockout Deal Is Not Reached By Feb. 28

Major League Baseball will begin canceling regular season games if the league and the MLBPA cannot agree to a new collective bargaining agreement deal by Monday, Feb. 28, a league spokesperson said Wednesday.

The spokesperson confirmed that not only will missed games not be made up, players would not be paid for any potential games canceled. “A deadline is a deadline. Missed games are missed games. Salary will not be paid for those games,” the spokesperson said. The news comes after the two sides met for the third straight day Wednesday, a first during the lockout.

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The league will not cancel certain games but instead just start by chopping the early slate of games, which kick off March 31, and move from there. The season would pick up whenever spring training — which MLB wants to be four weeks long due to health concerns — ends, with teams playing the games that were scheduled for that time.

At the start of the 2021 season, the average MLB player’s salary was $4.17 million, which equals to around $25,740 per game. Depending on how many games are cancelled, players could be looking at losses in the six figures. While MLB doesn’t plan on adding more doubleheaders or lengthening the second-half of the season, some believe this could be negotiable.

MLB had previously alerted players of the deadline two weeks ago, while the players never acknowledged it. Sources told ESPN that the union will pull MLB’s desired expanded playoffs — which would feature feature 12 to 14 teams instead of 10 —off the table if players aren’t pulled a full season’s salary.

While efforts have clearly been amplified in recent weeks, a deal still appears to be far apart with a number of issues, from revenue sharing to a draft lottery, still need addressing. Sources noted the only new proposal Wednesday was changing the minimum salary offer by adding an additional $10,000. The union wants $750,000, while the league is offering $640,000 with a $10,000 raise every year after.

According to ESPN, a number of changes have been made by both sides on previous offers. The league added $5 million to a proposed bonus pool for pre-arbitration players, bringing the total pool to $20 million. The union wants $15 million.

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Meanwhile, the union reduced their demand for Super Two eligibility, asking that salary arbitration comes to players who rank in the top 75% in terms of service time among those with two to three years of playing in the majors, down from the previous asking point of 80%.

Missed games would be a tough scenario for a league that was only able to play 60 out of a possible 162 games two seasons ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There could also be serious ramifications in terms of how parity plays out. For example, the St. Louis Cardinals’ first nine games feature two division opponents — the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs — with seven against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh is coming off a 61-101 season, and is expected to continue to remain a division bottom-dweller. Those seven games could not only result in four or five wins lost for St. Louis, but their division rivals would end up playing them more times, giving them an easier schedule and an advantage over the Cardinals – a factor that’ll no doubt be apparent come the playoff push in Sept.

Super Bowl LVI: Outlook, Keys To The Game, And Prediction

For the past month, the NFL playoffs have provided some incredible, heart pounding moments — and overtime criticism — with the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams emerging from the dust to face off in Super Bowl LVI.

It’s an intriguing matchup, one that’s featuring two extremely different franchises in regards to the way they were built. The Rams, in typical Hollywood style, focused on star power acquisitions. The team added veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford and eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller through trades, while signing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. midseason.

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All told, six of the Rams’ top players are combining for about $78 million, while the team won’t have a first-round draft pick until 2024 and a second-round pick until 2023. Suffice to say, it’s a championship-or-bust situation.

The Bengals, meanwhile, jumped well ahead of their rebuilding schedule. 2021 was their first winning season since 2015, with the team putting up a pitiful 25-53-1 record over that time. Much of the Bengals roster is homegrown, from former Heisman winner QB Joe Burrow to receivers Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and running back Joe Mixon.

When it comes to the Xs and Os, each team needs their star receiver to be able to break through the opposing secondary. Chase had one of — excuse me, the — best seasons for a first-year player ever, having most receiving yards for a rookie in NFL history (1,455 yards, 13 touchdowns) along with being the youngest player with multiple 100-yard games in a single postseason. His performance rightfully won him the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Of course, Chase’s season pales in comparison to what the Rams’ Cooper Kupp accomplished. The 28-year-old had 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with nine games of 100+ yards and 16 games of 90+ yards. Kupp has also put up 386 yards and four touchdowns in three games this postseason.

Suffice to say, whichever quarterback can connect with the favorite target often and for sizeable gains should help set the tone for their offense. In that vein, Chase might have the harder go, having lining up against three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. In pass coverage, Ramsey’s allowed a 71.1 passer rating — the third-lowest mark of his career — and a 59.2% completion percentage in 2021.

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There are other factors in play, as well. The Cincinnati defense needs to be able to continue showing up. They were able to hold the Kansas City Chiefs — the NFL leader in offense with 468.3 yards per game — to 24 points in the AFC Championship. The Rams rank third with 399.7 yards a game, so it won’t get easier.

NFL.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha also suggested that both head coaches, especially Zac Taylor, need to be on their A-game. Chadiha points out that while the Rams will have home field advantage going for them — they’re 5-3 at home — it’s important to remember that Zac Taylor was an assistant under Sean McVay as a quarterbacks coach before taking the HC role.

“[Taylor] knows a thing or two about McVay’s system and how to attack it. That will be a major storyline in this game,” Chadiha said. McVay is 6-3 in the postseason with a prior Super Bowl visit, so he certainly has the edge in experience – though some could argue his coaching ability has been overrated considering Los Angeles’ past playoff duds and upsets.

With the game expected to come down to the wire, I like the Bengals in this one. Joe Burrow has all the makings of a superstar that will dominate defenses while staying cool under pressure for the next decade-plus. While Los Angeles is better on paper, Cincinnati’s versatile offense ultimately prevails: Bengals 24, Rams 21.

Brian Flores Sues Three Teams, NFL While Alleging Racism In Hiring Process

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has sued the National Football League, as well as three teams — the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and the Dolphins — alleging discrimination played a part in both his firing and in the interview processes for Denver and NYG.

The 58-page lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court Tuesday by Wigdor Law LLP, and seeks class-action civil. In addition to the three teams and the league, the lawsuit also acknowledges “John Doe Teams 1 through 29” as defendants.

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Flores, 40, coached for Miami from 2019 to 2021, compiling a 24-25 record with two winning seasons. He claims Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to incentivize the head coach to “tank” — a phrase for teams losing on purpose to further their draft standing — after he was hired in 2019 by offering $100,000 for every loss.

According to Flores, after the team saw victories late in the season, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier to him Ross was “mad” about Miami’s on-field success. Flores states that Ross tried to pressure him into recruiting a “prominent quarterback,” which would have violated the NFL’s tampering rules.

Ross then invited Flores for lunch on a yacht in winter 2020, where he told Flores that the quarterback was “conveniently” arriving for an impromptu meeting. Again refusing to tamper, Flores left. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Schad, that quarterback was Tom Brady, who became a free agent in March of that year and later signed with the in-state rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Flores and Brady overlapped from 2004 to 2018 as members of the New England Patriots.

Following this incident, Flores alleges he was “treated with disdain” and made out to be someone who was difficult to work with. After Flores was fired — to the surprise of many at the time — on Jan. 10, he began interviewing for several head coaching vacancies around the league.

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Flores contends that the Giants interviewed him simply to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and front office positions. The rule, established in 2003, has been adjusted a number of times in the last two decades.

Flores spoke with the Giants on Zoom on Jan. 18, shortly before the Giants — undergoing major personnel changes this offseason — named former Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Joe Schoen to their GM role. The next day, Schoen finalized Flores’ second interview for Jan. 27. Hours later, Flores texted with Patriots’ HC Bill Belichick, who told Flores, “Sounds like you have landed [the job] – congrats!!”

Flores confirmed he had an interview for Thursday and felt he had a shot at it, to which Belichick replied he heard from Buffalo and New York he was “their guy.” Flores then asked Belichick whether he was talking to him or former Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who the Giants named their new HC on Jan. 28. Belichick confirmed he thought he was talking to Daboll.

“Sorry – I f****d this up. I double checked & I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. I’m sorry about that. BB”

Flores also claims that during his 2019 interview with the Denver Broncos, team officials — including then-general manager John Elway — showed up disheveled and hungover, alleging they were heavily drinking the night prior. The Broncos would later hire Vic Fangio.

In response to the lawsuit, the NFL stated they are “deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices” and continue to make process in providing equal opportunities. However, the NFL also said Flores’ claims are without merit, and that they will defend against them.

New York commented that they “are pleased and confident” with their hiring process, having interviewed a number of diverse candidates, while the Dolphins denied the allegations and added they are proud of the diversity within their organization.

Following the firings of Flores and David Culley from the Houston Texans, there is now only one black head coach (Mike Tomlin) in the NFL, which equates to 3.1% of all head coaches being black. Additionally, just 35-45% of assistant coaches are black, while no owners are black.

In addition to stating that in certain ways, the NFL is racially segregated and operated “much like a plantation,” the lawsuit lists a number of reliefs Flores is seeking, which includes increasing and incentivizing diversity in ownership and coaching, increasing objectivity in hiring and termination decisions for prominent roles, and seeing complete transparency in pay for GMs, HCs, and coordinators.

Despite Skid, Lakers Plan To Keep Head Coach Frank Vogel

According to Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers are not expected to make any drastic changes by firing head coach Frank Vogel, despite the team losing four of their last five games and sitting at 22-23, good for eighth in the Western Conference.

“I don’t feel like I’m under siege,” Vogel responded when asked if he felt like his job security was in jeopardy, adding that in this league and with this team, there will always be outside noise if the level of play isn’t up to par.

“I’m good at blocking it out. I feel good about the job we’re doing, and obviously we believe the results are going to come. But over the course of an 82-game season with a new group, you’re going to have some ugly nights”

For both the Lakers and Vogel, this quick turn of events makes two years ago feel like an eternity, when the team went 51-9 in Vogel’s first year and won the NBA championship — L.A.’s 17th title — during the league’s playoff bubble in Orlando.

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Since that time, however, Vogel has gone just 64-53 with a disappointing first-round exit last year. Following the team’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Vogel stressed that the blame falls on everyone. “We have to coach better. We have to play better. Everything has to be better.”

Los Angeles has struggled in a number of areas, such as defense. They’re allowing 112.8 points per game, the 27th-worst mark in the league. While it’s easy to blame Vogel, the team has undergone a number of drastic changes in the past three years – just four players from the championship team still remain in L.A.

The latest defeat sparked additional controversy when Vogel benched nine-time All-Star — and first-year Laker — Russell Westbrook with 3 minutes and 52 seconds remaining. Up to that point, Westbrook had shot 5-17 with 14 points.

Westbrook would leave to the locker room before the game expired, and opted not to stick around for questions after. On the year, the point guard is averaging 18.5 points per game (his worst total since 2009-10) and a .433 FG%.

Sources told ESPN Vogel had been given the green light by management to coach Westbrook as he and the coaching staff see fit. In response to the move, Vogel stated he was playing the guys he thought would win the game. Lebron James, meanwhile, answered cryptically when asked about Westbrook’s benching.

According to the sources, the coaching staff had been considering pulling Westbrook from late-game situations due to his inconsistencies and inability to follow up on scouting reports. For Vogel, the move is certainly a way to shake things up for the better – or it could create more conflict within the locker room.

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Making things more difficult for the Lakers has been Anthony Davis’ sprained MCL. The All-Star center, who’s been limited to 27 games this season, has been cleared for contact but remains without a timetable for return.

The pressure on Vogel — whose contract runs until 2022-23 — will likely continue to ramp up over the next several games. After playing the 8-38 Orlando Magic, Los Angeles will face the Miami Heat (29-16), Brooklyn Nets (28-16), and Philadelphia 76ers (26-18). Further embarrassing losses could spell an end to the 48-year-old’s tenure in Hollywood.