The march to the Super Bowl is underway.
Tom Brady's New England Patriots will collide with Matt Ryan's Atlanta Falcons while Lady Gaga might watch from the roof of NRG Stadium. Sounds crazy, but it's just one of the countless storylines surrounding the game this week.
Others? How about Brady and President Donald Trump, Ryan's quest, and even a young corner finally getting a matchup against a juggernaut he begged for years ago.
The rest of the sports world keeps ticking too. The NBA has some very noteworthy happenings right now, and athletes and fans everywhere will use this week to come together and celebrate the life of a young star taken too soon.
This is the best sports stuff right now for the week of the NFL's Pro Bowl.
Sporting World Remembers Yordano Ventura
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura died Sunday in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.
Ventura, 25, was an up-and-coming star in the baseball realm, with arguably his most memorable moment as a player when he posted the game of his career while honoring the death of his friend, Oscar Taveras.
FanRag Sports' Jesse Spector explained:
Royals fans gathered at Kauffman Stadium to honor Ventura, the beginning of a mourning process sure to endure. One quick search on social media shows athletes and fans remembering Ventura the right way.
Rest easy, Ace.
Bron-Pop Rivalry Just Got More Interesting
"I think he's the greatest coach of all time."
It shouldn't come as a shock to hear Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James say the above about San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.
After all, LeBron has dueled with Popovich in three NBA Finals now, and most would agree.
But what if there is something more? Popovich seemed to have other ideas about the comment, as seen above.
We'll have to wait until March 27 for the two sides to meet again. Let the countdown begin.
Johnny Football on the Comeback Trail
Johnny Manziel wants back in the league, folks.
Manziel told TMZ Sports he is sober and training for an NFL comeback. Manziel spent 2016 out of football and found himself in various negative headlines but sounds ready to turn things around.
Whether an agent, let alone an NFL team, takes the risk on Manziel remains to be seen. But having Johnny Football back in the NFL wouldn't be a bad thing—and any positive news around Manziel getting his life together is A-plus stuff.
The Never-Ending Brady-Trump BFF Saga Continues
Brady is off to the Super Bowl again.
The real story, though, is his relationship with Trump.
Brady, knowing Super Bowl week would ask this time and time again, got out ahead of the game Monday in an interview with Kirk & Callahan, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
"I don't want to get into it, but if you know someone, it doesn't mean you agree with everything they say or they do," Brady said. "You have a lot of friends in your life. I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences."
Brady has this spiel down, which is great—the onslaught of questions are on the way.
Colts Look Toward the Future
The Indianapolis Colts finally decided to pull the plug on general manager Ryan Grigson.
On paper, this should mark a new forward-looking march for the Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck.
But first a look at the past, as detailed by The MMQB's Peter King: "If you spin your wheels for two seasons of Andrew Luck's prime and get him hit too much and face his age-28 year with a bad offensive line and coming off shoulder surgery, well, the general manager is likely going to be endangered."
It's good to see Luck, one of the most battered and bruised stars in the NFL, get some fresh blood around him. Hopefully, the first item on the list for the new general manager is help along the offensive line.
It's Time to Talk About the Spurs
For some reason, nobody mentions the San Antonio Spurs anymore.
It's almost as if Tim Duncan hanging up the sneakers made the team irrelevant.
The Spurs are low-key one of the most fun teams to watch right now, with the Big Three of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol absolutely rolling.
ESPN.com's Zach Lowe dove into some of the deeper numbers: "The Spurs are 33-9, third in points allowed per possession and fourth in offensive efficiency. The bench whips the ball around as if Boris Diaw were still there. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili have a special mind-meld, and when your two lead ball-handlers dish and move like they do, the vibe is infectious. Nobody stands still. Jonathon Simmons has seen it up close for two years now, and both David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon have fit right in on the bench mob—one expert passer, one above-the-rim finisher type the Spurs haven't had in a while."
The Spurs aren't "boring" anymore. And they aren't going anywhere. Tuesday night's showdown in Toronto should be a good time for fans to catch back up.
The Rockets Are Changing the Game from Deep
The incredible, MVP-caliber play of James Harden after a position switch has swept one of the most important things about the Houston Rockets under the rug.
Harden's team shoots from deep.
Many teams take deep shots from near the line. The Rockets, in an effort to free up better open looks, step back farther than most teams.
"Especially as the game changes and defenses change, it's more difficult to get open looks," Ryan Anderson said, according to SB Nation's Kristian Winfield. "So, naturally I think you just obviously go farther and farther back when you get an open look."
What may look like showing off for other teams is actually strategy by the Rockets. And it works—per Winfield, Harden, Anderson and Trevor Ariza rank in the top seven this year in terms of threes made.
Expect the rest of the league to start following suit.
Malcolm Butler Gets His Wish
Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler has always wanted to line up against Falcons wideout Julio Jones.
As one can see above, Butler was wishing for a matchup against Jones way back in 2012 during his college days.
Yeah, Jones just dropped 180 yards and two touchdowns on the Green Bay Packers. But Butler was part of the secondary that held Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown to seven catches for 77 yards a few hours later.
Rest assured these two will hear about each other in the coming weeks.
The 76ers Keep Rolling...and Everyone Loves It
The Philadelphia 76ers keep winning games behind the efforts of social media wizard Joel Embiid.
Now sitting on 15 wins and winning three of their last four entering Tuesday, the 76ers' sneaking into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference is starting to get whispered about.
The 76ers had an unlikely supporter in Popovich recently, as seen above.
Hey, call Popovich bandwagon if you want, but he's not wrong.
Lady Gaga's Big Plans
As hinted in the intro, Lady Gaga isn't playing around about this halftime performance.
After signing the national anthem at Super Bowl 50, Gaga is now in charge of the much-anticipated halftime show.
Apparently, if you ask her, the riskier, the better—she wants to possibly perform on NRG Stadium's roof, according to Oli Coleman of New York Post's Page Six.
"They're writing up multiple plans about how to safely get her on the roof, including potentially [cutting] a hole in the ceiling of the dome," a source told Coleman.
As Yoda would say, a potty break this halftime show is not.
It's Pro Bowl Week!
If eye-rolling made an audible sound, that is what folks would be hearing right now.
The NFL's Pro Bowl fell out of favor years ago. An odd attempt to do a fantasy football-style draft before the game fell on its face.
This year, there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel—the NFL is giving fans what they want by bringing back skills competitions such as precision passing and best hands.
Oh, and dodgeball.
NFL players dishing out punishment in a game of dodgeball? Yes, please.
Matt Ryan Chases a Ring
Ryan can't afford to blow this opportunity.
Most quarterbacks never get a chance to play for a Super Bowl ring. The difference in reputation between a quarterback with a ring and one without is night and day.
Look what winning one did for Joe Flacco's career. Now think about the long, long list of names who never won a ring.
Ryan taking down Brady and establishing himself as a Super Bowl winner is the stuff of legends. It helps that outside of Boston, he's mostly viewed as the knight tasked with slaying the big evil dragon. His legacy desperately needs him to prevail.