Super Bowl LIII Digest: Patriots Put Down the Rams' Revolution

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2019

Super Bowl LIII Digest: Patriots Put Down the Rams' Revolution

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    It was ugly. It was messy. It was boring. It was a punt-fest.

    But in its own way, Super Bowl LIII was glorious.

    The Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 for their sixth Super Bowl championship, with Tom Brady letting his defense and supporting cast get all the glory for once. And Digest is here to bring you all the action, including:

    • A blow-by-blow account of a game with a whole lot of blows

    • Notes and quotes from some unsung special teams heroes

    • The reason the biggest play of the game was also one of the easiest

    • A gambling prop that almost broke the house

    • A Super Bowl Week edition of point-counterpoint

    • Early 2019 power rankings

    ...and much more!

    We kick off with a look at the brave new era of Sean McVay and his wunderkind coaching clones.

    What's left of that era after Sunday, anyway.


How the Patriots' Latest Super Bowl Win Makes the Whole NFL Look Silly

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    The Sean McVay Revolution was televised on Sunday night. And it wasn't pretty.

    The Patriots have humbled many upstarts over their 18-year-and-counting run of dominance, but their grungy, rugged 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII marked the first time they squashed an uprising before it even began.

    "There is no other way to say it, but I got outcoached," Rams coach Sean McVay said after the game.

    Yes, that's the same Sean McVay who already has his own coaching tree.

    A case of McVay Mania swept across the league over the last few months. The Bengals will make their hiring of Rams assistant Zac Taylor as head coach official in the next few days. The Packers are counting on McVay lookalike Matt LaFleur to reinvigorate Aaron Rodgers' career. The Cardinals turned their franchise over to Kliff Kingsbury, a sort of McVay cosplayer.

    Everyone who signed a lease on a Mini McVay in search of a next-gen offensive mastermind must be experiencing a case of buyer's remorse after Sunday's debacle.

    Jared Goff looked rattled for much of the game and appeared incapable of reading the Patriots defense. The Rams never got their running game going. Their offense, which is superficially simple by design (few personnel groupings, few formations, a small core set of plays), looked downright simplistic.

    Patriots defenders weren't surprised or fooled by anything McVay threw at them.

    "We were able to run a lot of different stunts, and their guys weren't able to pick it up," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said after the game.

    "We knew that when they get close to a touchdown, they like to take their shots," cornerback Stephon Gilmore said of the call that led to his game-icing interception.

    Jason McCourty further explained the defensive call that led to Gilmore's clinching interception. "We talked about it all week: coming out, playing zone, not giving them man-to-man like they expected. Then at the end of the game, we called an all-out blitz.

    "We came flying in. We knew that Goff would just try to get rid of it."

    In other words, the Patriots knew what was coming, did what they wanted and knew how the Rams would react to what they did. And the NFL's reigning wunderkind was powerless to stop it.

    McVay remains an impressive young coach. There's more to running a team than installing one game plan. Maybe some of the Mini McVays will turn out to be just as brilliant as advertised.

    But if there really is some revolution brewing, it's off to an inauspicious start.

    Former Ravens head coach and NFL Network analyst Brian Billick was skeptical when asked during the week if McVay-like coaches were about to take a league by storm.

    "That's the vogue thing right now," he said. "Some will be successful and some won't. 80 percent will probably fail.

    "Then the league will say: That didn't work. Now we have to go do whatever the next cycle is."

    Bill Belichick and the Patriots have watched many, many vogues and cycles come and go. This one doesn't look too different after Super Bowl LIII than any of the others.

    Chasing the Next Big Thing is an easy way to play right into their hands and keep the Patriots Dynasty alive forever.

Ultimate Super Bowl LIII Breakdown

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Did you miss the Super Bowl because your power was out, you attended some Saints Sour Grapes Parade, you fell asleep after the 10th punt or another equally justifiable reason? Don't worry: Digest has you covered, with all the sights and sounds of the game. And trust us—Super Bowl LIII was better to read about than to watch.

    75 minutes before kickoff: Unofficial fan jersey count from the concourse: 30 percent current Patriots jerseys, 20 percent vintage Patriots jerseys, 20 percent Patriots non-jersey apparel, 10 percent Falcons jerseys, 10 percent Rams jerseys, 9 percent miscellaneous NFL team jerseys (Chiefs and Bears, mostly) and one guy in a tattered Vince Ferragamo jersey who may well be Vince Ferragamo.

    65 minutes before kickoff: The Patriots take the field to a supervolcanic roar from the crowd. So this is going to be like Foxborough, but with a roof? Cool, cool, cool. (Pops six ibuprofen.)

    National anthem: Gladys Knight gives the stadium goosebumps.

    The betting line on the anthem moved by as much as eight seconds at some sportsbooks on late action; Darren Rovell speculated that bettors realized late in the week that Knight was 76 years old. So older singers hold notes longer? Is that…common knowledge? Is it an R&B thing? A female-singer-only thing? Does it apply to trumpeters?

    Regardless, Knight clears all the overs at two minutes and one second.

    There's a subsection of NFL fandom that bets big on the Super Bowl anthem but also criticizes Colin Kaepernick. Don't be friends with these people.

    Coin toss: The Rams win and defer. Dr. Bernice King tossed the coin. No word on whether that impacted the betting line.

    First quarter, 12:02: Cory Littleton intercepts Tom Brady's first pass, a wobbler that bounces off defender Nickell Robey-Coleman.

    First quarter, 9:46: Dante Fowler Jr. nearly decapitates Sony Michel. Westwood One radio announcers credit the hit to Ndamukong Suh, because that's what you do for near-decapitations. Robey-Coleman then crushes Rex Burkhead on a screen but gets flagged for a hit on a defenseless receiver. Saints fans would howl about the call if they weren't all watching a rerun of Super Bowl XLIV in protest.

    First quarter, 5:35: Patriots drive ends with a timeout, a draw play on 3rd-and-8 and a missed field goal. Patriots drives aren't supposed to end like that.

    First quarter, 3:32: Rams drive stalls. Johnny Hekker punts the Patriots inside the 20, barely: He slices one out of bounds. Patriots ball on their own 19.95 yard line.

    First quarter, 1:39: Brady fumbles. Center David Andrews recovers. Aaron Donald forces an errant Brady throw on third down. Matthew Slater downs the subsequent punt at the 6-yard line. First quarter ends. No score. 

    Second quarter, 13:58: Another Rams punt, from deep in their own territory. Jared Goff is playing quarterback like he's having that nightmare in which he has to give a presentation that he didn't prepare for in his underwear.

    Second quarter, 10:29: A Stephen Gostkowski field goal makes it 3-0.

    Second quarter, 8:00: Another Rams drive stalls after a wobbling deep incompletion by Goff. The stadium was so loud on third down, teammates probably couldn't even hear the hand signals.

    Second quarter, 4:32: Goff gets sacked for a 14-yard loss on 3rd-and-short. He's now playing like he's having the nightmare in which he's getting chased by a chainsaw killer but suddenly cannot move his legs.

    Second quarter 1:16: Patriots reach field-goal range but fail to convert a 4th-and-1 as Brady cannot connect with Rob Gronkowski through a sea of Rams hands. Luckily for the Patriots, Goff takes the field like he's having the nightmare in which he is getting his head held underwater by an insane clown.

    End of the half: Patriots lead 3-0. At least we have the Maroon 5 halftime show to look forward to. 

    Halftime: Save for a brief appearance by Big Boi, the Super Bowl LIII halftime show turns out to be the Super Bowl LIII first half of halftime shows. 

    Third quarter, 14:49: Todd Gurley escapes the super-secret probation/Non-Admitted Injury List he's been on for three weeks for a 16-yard cutback run. It's just the third Rams first down of the game. Patriots defender Patrick Chung leaves after the next play with an apparent broken arm. The drive stalls because Goff stares down his receiver on third down.

    Third quarter, 10:14: Patriots drive stalls. Slater downs the subsequent punt at the 2-yard line. If not for Julian Edelman, Slater would be the favorite for MVP.

    Third quarter, 8:36: The punts are now officially the most interesting part of this game. Hekker delivers a 65-yard roller after Goff has another Babadook experience in his own end zone.

    Third quarter, 3:55: Goff nearly connects with a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone. The ball hangs in the air too long, Jason McCourty arrives to break up the play. Goff takes a nine-yard loss to leave the Rams with a 53-yard field goal attempt. Greg Zuerlein nails it. Tie game, 3-3. Pass the smelling salts to keep the fans awake.

    End of third quarter: Scott Hanson interviews Trey Burton, who threw the Philly Special touchdown pass in Super Bowl LII, on the stadium jumbo screens. Reminding fans of that thrill-a-minute Super Bowl during this snoozefest is straight-up trolling.

    Fourth quarter, 13:45: C.J. Anderson fumbles, but the ball squirts out of bounds. Against all odds, Goff completes a third-down pass on the next play.

    Fourth quarter, 11:29: Holding negates a Gurley run to halt a promising Rams drive. They hand off on 3rd--and-22. At least the clock keeps running.

    Fourth quarter, 9:49-to-7:03: Gronk shears a linebacker named Samson Ebukam for an 18-yard catch. Edelman lines up inside in a five-wideout set and beats a linebacker. Brady throws a quick out to Rex Burkhead. Gronk beats Littleton up the seam. Spread formations? Pinpoint Brady passes? The exploitation of obvious mismatches? What is this, a Patriots game? A two-yard Michel touchdown makes it 10-3.

    Fourth quarter, 4:24: Goff nearly finds Cooks up the sideline in the end zone. Remember when Chung got hurt? Backup Duron Harmon arrives at the last second to knock the ball away.

    Fourth quarter, 4:17: Stephon Gilmore intercepts a floating Goff air ball near the end zone to Cooks, who makes no play on the ball. Maybe that's why Cooks gets passed around from contender to contender like the salad at Thanksgiving.

    Fourth quarter, 3:36: Michel gouges the Rams defense for 26 yards. Ballgame?

    Fourth quarter, 2:42: Burkhead adds 26 more yards. The Patriots force the Rams to burn all of their timeouts and then kick a field goal. Ballgame. 

    Now let's take a closer look at some of the game's biggest plays and players.

MVP Spotlight: Julian Edelman

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    What he did

    Edelman got open at will against the Rams, catching 10 passes for 141 yards to earn Super Bowl LIII MVP honors.

    Edelman caught a 25-yard pass to set up the Patriots' first field goal in the second quarter. He added a 13-yard catch on the game-sealing touchdown drive.

    Just about every Rams back-seven defender you can name, from Aqib Talib to Marcus Peters to Nickell Robey-Coleman, took their turns trying to cover Edelman throughout the game. But Edelman, who ranks second to Jerry Rice in all-time postseason receptions, was too quick for all of them.


    What he said

    Edelman after the game: "Your job as a receiver is to get open and catch the ball and block in the run game. My name was called. I was just asked to make a couple of plays, and we were able to do that."

    Teammate Matthew Slater after the game, poking fun at the perception of Edelman: "Too old. Too small. Too slow. I'm kinda surprised he won it."


    What it means

    Edelman was already one of the NFL's all-time postseason greats, thanks to his postseason production through the years and miraculous catch in Super Bowl LI. On Sunday, he carried the Patriots offense for much of the game.

    He owes a great deal of his career success to Tom Brady. But Brady owes this championship to Edelman.

Defensive Hero Spotlight: Stephon Gilmore

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    What he did

    Gilmore crushed the Rams' hopes of a comeback by intercepting a wounded pheasant of a pass by Jared Goff near the end zone late in the fourth quarter.

    Gilmore also broke up two other passes, forced a C.J. Anderson fumble and was part of a Patriots defense that held the Rams to just 260 yards of offense.


    What he said

    Gilmore on his interception: "I just knew I couldn't drop it. I saw it the whole time. I knew he was gonna chuck it up. It was probably one of the easiest picks I ever had."


    What it means

    We kicked off Digest by throwing shade at the Rams offense, but let's give the Patriots defense its due: It delivered one of the best performances in Super Bowl history on Sunday.

    The defensive line played an outstanding game. The defensive game plan was perfect. Gilmore's interception was easy because the Patriots made it that way. But that doesn't take away from how important it was. In a Super Bowl with few big plays, Gilmore delivered the biggest.

Unsung Hero Spotlight: Ryan Allen and Matthew Slater

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    What they did

    Allen punted five times for 43.0 yards per punt, pinning the Rams at the six-, two- and seven-yard lines on three of his kicks. Long-time Patriots special teams ace Slater downed two of those kicks and was responsible for keeping an eye on Johnny Hekker to make sure he didn't mix a fake among his nine punts.


    What they said

    Slater after the game, on the coffin-corner punts: "Brian and I practice that a lot. That's not a glamorous play. But in a game like this, when field position was so critical, it was nice to be able to make those plays and help swing the game."


    What it means

    Hekker set a record with his 65-yard punt and gets as much attention as any punter because of his fakes. But Allen and Slater kept the Rams starting near their own end zone for most of the game, which helped prevent the offense from gaining traction and increased its margin for error.

    It's another example of how the Patriots find hidden advantages on special teams and with field position that give them an edge in close games.

Will the Dynasty Without End Ever End?

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    This has to be the end, right?

    We spent the week leading up to the Patriots' sixth world championship asking each other when their dynasty would finally crumble: reporters asking current players, former players, ex-coaches and each other, in interviews, talk-radio segments, video roundtables and hotel-bar bull sessions, none of us able to provide a satisfactory, sensible answer.

    We seek the end not because we hate the Patriots—not most of us, not really—but because we seek resolution, a chance to witness Ragnarok or the Fall of Rome, close the book and start a new one. We're out of storylines and superlatives, ways of saying the greatest ever are even greater, finding comparisons for the incomparable.

    Digest went on its own journey to determine when the Patriots dynasty would end. We asked the statistics and the game tape, and they told us the same thing Nickel Robey-Coleman told Bleacher Report's Ty Dunne: Tom Brady was declining; he had weaknesses that a good opponent could exploit.

    The stats and tape never lie, but they never tell you that you are asking the wrong questions, either. They said Brady only had a few big throws per game left in him. But they didn't mention that those big throws might be all he needed.

    "Brady is the head of the snake," Justin Tuck said midweek.

    Digest sought Tuck out because Tuck came closer than anyone to derailing the Patriots dynasty when he sacked Brady four times in a pair of Giants Super Bowl victories.

    But there's more to a snake than its head, and Tuck isn't surprised that the Patriots are still going strong long after he and most of his Giants teammates have left the game.

    "Everything they do is about pulling the rope in the same direction," Tuck said "When you have 53 professional football players pulling the rope the same way, you're not going to beat yourself. You're going to be in every game.

    "Now throw in the fact that you have the best quarterback, arguably, to play the game. If he stays healthy, one of the best tight ends. That's a model for success."

    Brady and Gronkowski, the aging quarterback and injury-plagued tight end, only connected for one really big pass on Sunday: a 29-yard strike along the sideline to set up the game's only touchdown. But it was all they needed. And Gronk was as fired up after Super Bowl as he has ever been.

    "This is the most satisfying year I have ever been apart of," he said, his voice rising with emotion. "How we came together; the obstacles we had to overcome."

    "It was life. We went through life this year."

    Gronk said that he may decide upon retirement in a few weeks. Brady needed all the support he could muster on Sunday. The Patriots won a yucky game by a razor-thin margin after a season where nothing came easy for them.

    But that doesn't mean this is the end.

    Because football is more than a game to the Patriots. It's life.

Point-Counterpoint: Super Bowl Week Edition

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    Robin Marchant/Getty Images

    Usain Bolt runs a 4.22-second 40-yard dash—which would tie the combine record if it were official—at the NFL Experience.

    Point: "World's Fastest Man Runs Fast" may be the ultimate overstimulated Super Bowl Week headline.

    Counterpoint: The ghost of Al Davis is desperately trying to inhabit Mike Mayock's body to get him to draft Bolt.


    President Donald Trump says the blown pass interference no-call in the NFC Championship Game was "maybe the worst call I've ever seen."

    Point: That seals it: Bad officiating is now the only topic all of America can agree upon.

    Counterpoint: Guess the president forgot the NFL is supposed to be a failing league with sagging ratings because of the protests during the national anthem when he tuned in to watch a playoff game in the middle of a government shutdown.


    Saints players say they never heard from Roger Goodell despite his statement (which the league later clarified had been misinterpreted) that he had spoken to them individually about the blown call in the NFC Championship Game.

    Point: Yeah, the Commish sounds like the kind of guy who would spend a day making a bunch of phone calls to individual players.

    Counterpoint: You know how you sometimes forget to check in with your mom for a week, and then you feel so guilty that you avoid it for another week, and then so much time has passed that it feels awkward to call so you skip another week, and then when she finally calls, you claim you had pneumonia for a month so she doesn't get mad at you? That was Goodell's management strategy for dealing with the Saints.

    Bonus counter-counterpoint: Goodell must really hate being in hot water over a bad call, as opposed to being in hot water over CTE, domestic violence and all the other very real problems that no one is talking about because of the bad call.


    Josh McDaniels says Patriots coaches use "float tanks" to simulate hours of sleep in just 40 minutes.

    Point: These are common in the NFL. Rumor has it, Adam Gase has been getting 40 minutes of sleep per night for years and it has made him perflexetly blorpal.

    Counterpoint: And this is the organization that thinks Alex Guerrero is some sort of weirdo...


    Tony Romo gets treated like a rock star during Super Bowl week for his ability to predict plays.

    Point: It was either pretend Romo has superpowers or pretend to care about Maroon 5. Not a hard choice.

    Counterpoint: All we need to do to finally address climate change is get Romo to predict during a telecast that sea levels will rise.


    A Pittsburgh television station fires an employee for captioning on-air footage of Tom Brady with the chyron "Known Cheater."

    Point: Man, you should have seen the chyron they had for Ben Roethlisberger.

    Counterpoint: The Steelers immediately hired the fired employee as director of workplace professionalism.


    Patriots owner Robert Kraft appears on stage during a Cardi B concert.

    Point: It's hard to determine which is a better example of "galaxy brain": publicly supporting both the Trump administration and criminal justice reform, or declining to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show in support of Colin Kaepernick, or gleefully playing along with an NFL owner during the game-week festivities.

    Counterpoint: Maybe nothing gets done in this country because too many rich and famous people believe whatever they need to believe as long as it brings immediate attention and approval.


    Players Coalition announces NFL-funded grants for a variety of social justice organizations.

    Point: Social justice? I thought all those problems were solved when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. All we have left to do now is fix officiating, and then we can all boogie on stage together.

    Counterpoint: Can you name one thing these players are doing other than protesting? Besides lobbying for prison and bail reform, providing workplace training for underprivileged young adults, providing lawyers for juvenile offenders and counselors for at-risk children and providing money and rising awareness for other grassroots initiatives, that is?

Digest Sportsbook

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Digest wrapped up the first-ever NFL season of legal sports betting (in some states) by talking to DraftKings Sportsbook director Johnny Avello about wagering trends entering Super Bowl LIII and what football fans can look forward to in the offseason.


    Digest: Which way did the money go on Super Bowl LIII?

    Avello: It's funny how this game played out. We opened up with a one-point spread (Patriots favored) and the game slipped to 2.5 rather quickly. It stayed that way for a lot of the week, with a lot of money coming in on the Patriots side. And then some late money came in on the Rams side.

    It was all one-sided at one point, but it started to balance out. That's not unusual, though.


    Digest: Does the biggest Super Bowl action come in minutes before kickoff, like in a typical NFL Sunday?

    Avello: It doesn't. Maybe it's a little different on the apps, but for the most part people need to have their wagers in because they have to get settled into a spot, maybe at the bar, or at a sportsbook or at a party. By about 3:00 (Eastern), most of the money is in.


    Digest: Did any props attract a lot of action?

    Avello: A lot of people bet Rob Gronkowski to score the first touchdown. We had a lot of money on that. We put up some really ridiculous odds on that. That would have been a big minus for us very early in the game.

    (Digest note: Gronk came within two yards of paying off, but Sony Michel scored the game's first touchdown.)


    Digest: Does the house often find itself behind early in a Super Bowl because of a big payout?

    Avello: When I was in Vegas a few years back, we (were) paying 100-to-1 to score a touchdown on the first play of the game. (Digest note: Probably when Devin Hester did in Super Bowl XLI.) We were hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole on the first play of the game. We end up making money for the day. It's just not a comfortable spot.

    When the ball got hiked over Peyton Manning's head for a safety as the first score in a game—that was a big payout too.


    Digest: The next big wagering event on the calendar now that the Super Bowl is over is March Madness. What does DraftKings have in store?

    Avello: We're looking at all kinds of things. I can't tell you everything right now but lots of props and free bets.

    For the Super Bowl, we had "Squares," which I am sure everybody is familiar with. Then we made an offer where if you placed a $50 player prop bet during the Super Bowl, we put $50 back into your account.

    So there will be opportunities like that: giving you money to bet, making sure you're in the action, making sure you're happy.


    Digest: What about the NFL offseason?

    Avello: We have the futures up now: You can bet next year's Super Bowl futures. We'll be putting up the regular-season over/unders as soon as the schedules come out, probably late May or early June. I feel pretty confident we'll be doing the draft this year.


    Digest: So fans will be able to bet on who gets selected first overall in the NFL?

    Avello: Not only that, but, Will this guy be drafted before this guy? How many quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round? Those kinds of wagers.

    When the NFL ends, it's about six months until it returns, but we can't let it linger on that long. We do things to get people thinking about it again.


    Digest is all about thinking about football in the offseason! And we can't wait to get back to Digest headquarters in New Jersey to bet on Nick Bosa to be the first overall pick before the moneyline slides down to -166667.

Offseason Power Rankings Digest

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Digest concludes this season the way we conclude every season: by looking ahead to next year with our way-too-early and far-too-snarky offseason power rankings.

    32. Arizona Cardinals: Soon to be renamed Larry Fitzgerald's NFL Extended Internship Program.

    31. Detroit Lions: Soon to be made into a movie titled Matt and Silent Bob Strike Out.

    30. Washington Redskins: No quarterback and a defense full of Alabama alumni. An off-brand version of the Ravens, basically.

    29. Oakland Raiders: Three first-round picks, two TV gurus making the decisions, one impatient owner, zero home stadiums and a partridge in a pear tree.

    28. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley will set a yardage record, the defense will improve, the Giants will go 5-11, and anyone in the organization who suggests Eli Manning is somehow to blame will get fired.

    27. Denver Broncos: When you think for three years you are just a quarterback away from being great, it really means you are three years away from being great.

    26. New York Jets: It's hard to get excited about Sam Darnold when his future is in the hands of general manager Mike MacDraftfail and head coach Adam Glowsticks.

    25. Jacksonville Jaguars: They'll grab Nick Foles away from the Eagles, pair him with their rugged defense and old-school philosophy and pull themselves out of mediocrity. You know: the Jeff Fisher method.

    24. Buffalo Bills: The classic Bills rebuilding model is proceeding as planned. Step 1: Hire coach. Step 2: Find quarterback. Step 3: Build supporting cast. Step 4: Realize you hired the wrong coach. Step 5: Realize you didn't really find a quarterback.

    23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: If Bruce Arians can get Jameis Winston to cut down on his interceptions, NFL teams will forget about Next Sean McVays and start hiring every 66-year-old with a white beard and a little golf cap they can find.

    22. Cincinnati Bengals: They fired Marvin Lewis, right? Who'd they replace him with, Hue Jackson? No? One of the Mini McVays? OK, good. No, we don't care which one. Is Andy Dalton still...never mind. Let's just move on to a more interesting team.

    21. Miami Dolphins: We said a more interesting team.

    20. Atlanta Falcons: Oh, for crying out loud.

    19. Carolina Panthers: Your father-in-law will tell you he thinks "Scam" Newton isn't working hard enough to rehab his injured shoulder just as soon as he finishes his Facebook post condemning the liberal media.

    18. Pittsburgh Steelers: When the circus leaves town, all that's left is sawdust and elephant poo.

    17. San Francisco 49ers: In a few weeks, Antonio Brown will start Instagramming Photoshopped images of himself in a 49ers uniform complaining to Jimmy Garoppolo about his lack of targets.

    16. Dallas Cowboys: Insanity is doing the same things over and over again with Jason Garrett but expecting different results.

    15. Tennessee Titans: It will be a challenge for them to overcome the loss of that offensive coordinator no one ever heard of or had any impression of whatsoever until the day the Packers hired him as head coach.

    14. Green Bay Packers: Matt LaFleur is just what Packers fans have been begging for: a new voice in Aaron Rodgers' ear for him to tune out.

    13. Houston Texans: All they need is another set of career seasons from their four superstars and an even softer schedule and they could maybe win a playoff game.

    12. Minnesota Vikings: In the not-too-distant future, the team that finishes between 7-9 and 9-7 with the highest payroll will be awarded the Kirk Cousins Trophy.

    11. Cleveland Browns: The Freddie Kitchens-Baker Mayfield optimism is warranted. But remember: Going from last place to .500 is like tossing a gumdrop in the air and catching it in your mouth. Winning a Super Bowl is more like catching a bullet.

    10. Seattle Seahawks: Now that they spent a year establishing the run, it might be fun to watch Russell Wilson throw a few more passes.

    9. Baltimore Ravens: They hope to transform Lamar Jackson into a balanced quarterback who can make accurate, consistent throws from the pocket. If that fails, they'll do the same thing they've been doing for the past 20 years.

    8. Los Angeles Chargers: They're poised to take the league by surprise by winning a bunch of games in midseason but not quite getting it done down the stretch, the same thing they do every single year.

    7. New Orleans Saints: Louisiana lawmakers should lobby Congress for a one-year salary-cap deferment so the Saints can afford to keep their roster intact as restitution for the no-call.

    6. Chicago Bears: With a great defense and multifaceted running game, all they need is more consistency from their exciting but erratic quarterback to be a Super Bowl contender. (Try not to think about the fact that we copy-pasted that last sentence from last year's Jaguars power ranking.)

    5. Indianapolis Colts: They may soon be able to hang a banner from the rafters that doesn't read "2018: We Sure Did Surprise a Lot of People."

    4. Philadelphia Eagles: The first "Getting rid of Nick Foles was a huge mistake" reactions are scheduled for the first quarter of the season opener, three seconds after Carson Wentz throws an incomplete pass.

    3. Kansas City Chiefs: The comparisons between Patrick Mahomes and Brett Favre are accurate. But remember: It took Favre five seasons in Green Bay to overcome the Cowboys and win a Super Bowl.

    2. New England Patriots: Don't hate us for providing bulletin board material, Patriots fans.

    1. Los Angeles Rams: The Mini McVay Marching Society that's taking over the league may have suffered a setback in Super Bowl LIII. But the real McCoy—er, McVay—still has a pretty good roster to work with.


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