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#pounditFriday, January 28, 2022

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Andy Reid issues warning to Chiefs about Bengals rematch

Andy Reid with a headset on

The Kansas City Chiefs are considered clear favorites against the Cincinnati Bengals in Sunday’s AFC Championship game, but coach Andy Reid does not want any complacency seeping in.

Reid discussed Kansas City’s week 17 loss at Cincinnati, which saw the Bengals put together a late rally to win 34-31. Reid warned that the outcome was not a “fluke.” He says the Chiefs’ urgency level has to remain high in order to avoid a repeat.

“They made big plays on us on both sides of the ball. They were able to slow us down and then pick it up on the offensive side,” Reid said, via Chris Roling of Bengals Wire. “So, we’ve got to do a better job all the way around, special teams included. Every phase can be better.

“They beat us. It wasn’t a fluke. They beat us, so they’re a good football team and it’s important that we have a great week of preparation here, and that’s one reason why the urgency level is there even yesterday once the game was over to get busy.”

The Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals was a surprise, though it did come on the road. Things may be different now that the Chiefs will have home field advantage on Sunday. That said, the Bengals are as confident as they’ve been all year. Reid is right that this won’t necessarily be easy.

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Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Aikman makes significant admission about broadcasting future

Troy Aikman in a suit

Troy Aikman has been calling NFL games for FOX for over two decades, but even he admits that chapter could be coming to an end this weekend.

Aikman and regular partner Joe Buck will call Sunday’s NFC Championship for FOX, but his contract expires after that. That factor has sparked widespread speculation that Aikman could move to Amazon as part of their coverage of “Thursday Night Football.” There is enough uncertainty that Aikman admitted Sunday could be the last game he calls for FOX.

“It could be, yeah. I don’t anticipate that but it could be,” Aikman told Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Aikman said he is already having discussions with FOX about his future, which could involve remaining with the network, moving to Thursday nights, or even doing both.

“Those conversations are happening now,” Aikman said. “And I’m really being as honest as I can be about it. I really don’t know what it’s gonna look like when it’s all said and done and it does get settled. As to whether I’ll be working for Fox and Amazon, whether I’ll just be working for Fox or whether I’ll just be working for Amazon. I really don’t know what might happen.”

Aikman is one of the more recognizable voices in the sport after 20 years on FOX’s lead broadcast crew. With Tony Romo resetting the market for analyst salaries, Aikman can ask for a lot of money from any potential suitor. That is likely the biggest factor contributing to uncertainty over his future.

Further fueling speculation about an Aikman exit is the rumor that FOX is reportedly already considering a big-name replacement for Aikman if he does leave.

Photo: Nov 21, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys former quarterback Troy Aikman attends the NFL game between the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Did Byron Leftwich force Jaguars to fire GM Trent Baalke?

Trent Baalke at a press conference

Byron Leftwich is viewed as the favorite to be named the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he may want them to make a major front office move before he signs on the dotted line.

A report earlier this week claimed Leftwich was close to finalizing a deal with the Jaguars. Those talks have since stalled, and that may have something to do with general manager Trent Baalke. First Coast News sports director Chris Porter reported on Thursday morning that Leftwich wants the Jaguars to fire Baalke and hire Arizona Cardinals executive Adrian Wilson as their next GM.

Leftwich has a relationship with Wilson from Leftwich’s time with the Cardinals. Prior to being hired as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Leftwich was an assistant coach in Arizona for two seasons.

Leftwich may have gotten his way. According to Mike Jurecki of the Cardinals’ official website, Jacksonville is working toward hiring Wilson as GM and Leftwich as head coach.

Baalke is extremely unpopular in Jacksonville. Thousands of Jaguars fans dressed in clown costumes for the final game in the regular season to show the team how unhappy they are with the job Baalke has done. There have been reports that some candidates would only have interest in the Jaguars head coaching job if Baalke were fired.

It would appear Leftwich is one of those coaches. The 42-year-old is suddenly drawing interest from another NFL team, but he has ties to the Jags organization. Leftwich was drafted by Jacksonville in the first round back in 2003 and started 44 games for the Jags.

Before he joined the Jaguars’ front office in 2020, Baalke’s previous job was as GM of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2016. The Niners enjoyed great success early in Baalke’s tenure with the team, but he has been criticized for forcing Jim Harbaugh out. It would hardly be a surprise if Leftwich didn’t want to work under him.

Photo: Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke during Friday afternoon’s press conference at TIAA Bank Field. After his arrival in Jacksonville, Florida Friday morning, April 30, 2021, Jacksonville Jaguars first-round draft pick Trevor Lawrence along with team owner Shad Khan, head coach Urban Meyer and the Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke held a press conference in the afternoon inside TIAA Bank Field. They were also joined by the Jaguars 25th pick in the first round of the draft and former Clemson teammate of Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Twitter reacts to Josh Allen snubbing Pro Bowl

Josh Allen in a Bills hat

Josh Allen was considered one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs when the 2021 rosters were announced, and the Buffalo Bills star has decided to return the favor.

Allen was an alternate for the Pro Bowl. He was invited to Las Vegas this week after Lamar Jackson withdrew due to an ankle injury. Allen announced on Thursday that he has turned down the invite “in order to allow my body to rest and recover from the harshness of the season.”

Allen even went as far as to say he gets a lot of bumps and bruises because of his playing style. However, most fans want to believe that he was simply sticking his middle finger up at the Pro Bowl after not being voted in. There were some great reactions on Twitter.

Allen’s numbers this season were only slightly worse than a year ago, when he was viewed as a legitimate MVP candidate. He threw for 4,407 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His performance against the Kansas City Chiefs last week was a reminder that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, let alone the AFC. Allen went 27/37 for 329 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in that game. Buffalo lost thanks in part to a massive late game blunder.

Even if Allen were healthy, we have our doubts that he would have accepted the Pro Bowl invite. The Bills were clearly bothered by their lack of Pro Bowl players and felt disrespected by it.

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Byron Leftwich reportedly a candidate for Saints job

Byron Leftwich

Byron Leftwich was said to be nearing a deal to become the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this week, but the New Orleans Saints may want a say in the matter.

The Saints are suddenly searching for a new head coach after Sean Payton announced he is stepping away from the team. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, they have requested permission to interview Leftwich.

Leftwich was drafted by Jacksonville in the first round back in 2003 and started 44 games for the Jags. He has spent the last two seasons working with Tom Brady, which has boosted his resume significantly. You can understand why Jacksonville would be intrigued by the idea of having him work with Trevor Lawrence.

A report on Tuesday claimed Leftwich and the Jags were finalizing a deal, but it appears that was premature.

It also makes sense that the Saints have interest in Leftwich. The 42-year-old has been the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the last three seasons, so he has experience in the NFC South.

Leftwich may end up with his choice of jobs this offseason.

Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Did Wisconsin AD tease some Caleb Williams transfer news?

Caleb Williams in uniform

Wisconsin’s athletic director is adding gasoline to the fire regarding the Caleb Williams rumor.

A report emerged this week saying that the Badgers were a surprising contender to land Williams as a transfer. The report came as a surprise to many for multiple reasons.

One, Wisconsin isn’t exactly the program you think of when identifying landing spots for dual-threat, big-passing quarterbacks. Two, Williams has been tied to USC, where his former coach, Lincoln Riley, has taken the head coach job. But the report is out there, and when you couple it with the Badgers’ AD said, the report needs to be taken seriously.

Badgers AD Chris McIntosh spoke at the Milwaukee Press Club luncheon on Wednesday and said there is “some exciting news to be shared” soon regarding the Wisconsin football team.

Maybe people are crazy for connecting his statement with the Williams transfer, or maybe not.

There also is a little bit of a roundabout connection that could bring Williams to Wisconsin.

We still would bank on Williams going to USC, but if going to the Trojans were such a slam dunk, why hasn’t he committed to them already?

Photo: Oklahoma’s Caleb Williams (13) before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

Ja’Marr Chase reveals shocking comment Les Miles made to him

JaMarr Chase waves to the crowd

Cincinnati Bengals star Ja’Marr Chase needed just one NFL season to establish himself as one of the best wide receivers in the game. Those who watched him in college may not have been shocked, but Les Miles certainly cannot say he saw it coming.

Chase was asked about his sources of motivation while speaking with the media on Wednesday. He said Les Miles is one of them. Why? Because when Chase was coming out of high school, Miles apparently told him he would not make it as a wide receiver at the next level. The coach felt Miles would be better off as a cornerback.

Needless to say, that assessment was a bit off. Chase exploded in his sophomore season at LSU in 2019. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns, which was an SEC record until Alabama’s DeVonta Smith broke it the following year. Chase and Joe Burrow helped lead LSU to a national title. Chase set a College Football Playoff championship game record with 221 receiving yards in LSU’s win over Clemson.

It’s worth noting that Chase said he worked even harder after he spoke with Miles, so Miles may have helped Chase’s career.

Some people doubted Chase’s abilities when he struggled with drops during the preseason, but that now seems like a lifetime ago. The 21-year-old caught 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in his rookie season. He also had over 100 yards in each of Cincinnati’s two playoff wins.

Miles, who coached at LSU from 2005-2016, was not with the school when Chase arrived in 2018. Tigers fans should be thankful for that. Miles will probably hear about his Chase assessment for the rest of his life. We all saw what happened when a former NFL executive doubted Lamar Jackson’s ability to play quarterback.

Photo: Albert Cesare/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Chiefs fans show respect for Josh Allen with awesome gesture

Josh Allen in a Bills hat

Josh Allen played an incredible game in a losing effort against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, and fans at Arrowhead Stadium clearly appreciated what they saw from the Buffalo Bills star. They have since come up an awesome way to show it.

More than 9,500 Chiefs fans this week have made donations to the Patricia Allen Fund, which was launched in 2020 after Allen’s grandmother died. According to Tim Meehan of WKBW, the donations had totaled more than $173,000 as of Wednesday morning.

A Facebook group called “Chiefs Kingdom Memes” created a post on Monday encouraging Chiefs fans to make $13 donations to the Patricia Allen Fund. The 13 represents the amount of time that was left after Allen’s Bills took a 36-33 lead. Patrick Mahomes then led the Chiefs on an improbable drive that ended with a game-tying field goal. Kansas City went on to win in overtime.

Brett Fitzgerald, the creator of the Facebook page, said Bills Mafia started the trend by making $13 donations to Patrick Mahomes’ foundation.

“I’m like I like that idea so. Instantly went found Josh Allen’s foundation. Donated $13 to it, so basically switch $13 over to Josh Allen’s foundation,” Fitzgerald said. “Made a quick name about it posted it on their, posted a screenshot of my donation and deleted the other one from Facebook and Twitter recommending Mahomes’ foundation. I said this is better.”

The Patricia Allen Foundation is run out of Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. The charity was started after Bills fans flooded the hospital with $17 donations (a nod to Allen’s jersey number) when his grandmother died in 2020. More than $1 million was raised, and a wing of the hospital was dedicated to Allen’s family.

Those who say sports aren’t important should remember movements like these. This isn’t the first time we have seen fans donate to an opposing player’s charity. Bills fans pulled a similar move after a star quarterback went down with an injury during the playoffs last year. Hopefully the trend continues.

Photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Rex Ryan takes shot at Aaron Rodgers amid latest rumor

Rex Ryan talks on ESPN

Rex Ryan cannot help but hop aboard The Aaron Rodgers Hate Train.

Speaking this week on ESPN’s “Organized Chaos” podcast, the former NFL coach Ryan reacted to his co-host Bart Scott’s prediction that Rodgers will end up with Denver Broncos this offseason.

“If he goes to Denver, he’s the third-best quarterback in that division,” said Ryan. “You’re going to put him with Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes? I’m not. I won’t. I’m gonna tell you why I won’t do that. Aaron Rodgers is phenomenal. But ten years ago, I’d put him in there. But not now. He’s much older.

“Let’s look at the numbers,” Ryan continued about Rodgers. “When his line protects him, in other words, they win every one of their matchups, Aaron Rodgers is by far and away the No. 1 quarterback in the league. He threw 31 touchdown passes and one interception when his offensive line won their matchups. When they did not win their matchups, he is 26th in the league. So if one guy misses, he is 26th in the league.”

Ryan, who is known for outlandish takes, is obviously being a bit ridiculous here. Despite being 38 years old, Rodgers is likely about to win his second consecutive MVP award. That would bring Rodgers’ MVP total to four, three of which came in his 30s. At 26 years old, Mahomes can compete with that, having won MVP in 2018 as well as one Super Bowl ring to match Rodgers’ one Super Bowl ring. But the 23-year-old Herbert, who has yet to even make the playoffs in his career, certainly cannot compete with that.

As for the Broncos rumors that got the entire discussion started here, they definitely appear to have some legs. Even oddsmakers think it is a very real possibility that Rodgers could end up with Denver this offseason.

Report: Star receiver wants to sign with Chiefs this offseason

Patrick Mahomes Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes already has plenty of weapons to throw to. Come this offseason, he could be getting another one.

Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reported on Tuesday that Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is hoping to join Kansas City as a free agent and has expressed that desire. Wilson adds that Smith-Schuster nearly signed with the Chiefs last offseason after they offered him a one-year, $8 million deal with $3 million in incentives. Instead though, Smith-Schuster returned to Pittsburgh on a one-year, $8 million deal.

The ex-Pro Bowler Smith-Schuster might not be able to get a big contract after his injury-plagued 2021 season where he caught just 15 passes for 129 yards and no touchdowns in five games. Ben Roethlisberger is likely retiring as well, opening the door for Smith-Schuster to potentially leave Pittsburgh.

As for the Chiefs, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are the clear alpha dogs in the passing game. But wide receivers Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson will both be free agents this offseason, creating a potential void to fill.

We know Kansas City had a pretty phenomenal recruiting pitch for Smith-Schuster last year. Fortunately for them, it sounds like they may have less work to do to reel in the 25-year-old receiver this time around.

Photo: Nov 22, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports