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Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill hands off to Derrick Henry during the second half of the AFC title game on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo. The host Chiefs won 35-24 to avenge a regular-season loss from November in Nashville and advance to the Super Bowl. Henry and Tannehill, both crucial to the team's midseason turnaround and playoff run, will soon be free agents. / AP photo by Charlie Riedel

Weekend winners

Nick Tiano. The former Baylor School and UTC quarterback went 8-of-10 for 135 yards and a TD. He was named MVP of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, an offseason all-star game. Way to go Nick.

LeBron. No AD, no Rondo, no problem. James capped his most helpful back-to-back games in his Hall of Fame career with 12 more assists as the Lakers rallied to beat the Rockets in Houston. There are a lot of great players playing at MVP levels, but what LeBron is doing — in year 17 mind you — is amazing right now.

Andy Reid. Yes, Patrick Mahomes was great. But the Chiefs outmaneuvered the Titans at almost every turn. Whether it was goal line defense in the middle of the field on first down or running the ball on 10 straight plays against a Tennessee defense designed to confuse Mahomes and that offense. The Chiefs were better on the field, and Reid was way better on the sideline.  

Mike White. The Florida coach had a tough start to the season with a slew of new faces and pieces. Well, the Gators have found the combination folks, and they are loaded with size and experience. And after hammering Auburn on Saturday in Gainesville

Conor McGregor and MMA. McGregor won his return to the Octagon in 40 seconds and sets the stage for a whole lot of bigger moments and paydays for everyone involved in the sport. Side question: Did anyone see Jorge Mazvidal in robe/smoking jacket ring side? That's a move only really bad dudes can swing friends.

John Lynch. He was named PFWA Executive of the Year late last week and his 49ers punched a Super Bowl ticket in large part because of a fantastic roster he has assembled. Since being named GM in January 2017, Lynch has drafted starting WR Deebo Samuel (Round 2/2019), tackle Mike McClinchey (R1/19), TE George Kittle (R5/17), DE Nick Bona (R1/19), MLB Fred Warner (R3/18), OLB Dre Greenlaw (R5/19), traded for QB Jimmy Garappolo, LG Laken Tomlinson, WR Emmanuel Sanders and DE Dee Ford, and signed a slew of star free agents — be them undrafted like Sunday star RB Raheem Mostert or Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. This 49ers team is going to be around for a while because a) the most-impactful players who will be unrestricted free agents are FB Kyle Juszcyk, CB Emmanuel Moseley and FS Jimmie Ward.  

Bonus pick: Speaking of Mostert, well, this story screams motivation and determination and demands a level of respect that has to be afforded. Mostert was cut by six NFL teams before catching on with the 49ers and rushing for 220 yards and four scores Sunday to lead S.F. to the Super Bowl.

 

Weekend losers

My sleep schedule. Hey, our new puppy is cute as all get out. And she's definitely a lap dog. (Here's an instagram photo Chas.) But buckets, her early morning potty needs — and baby it's cold outside — can cut into some serious Zzzzzzzzzzzs. (Side question: Are you officially and old guy when you refer to seeping as Zzzzzzzzzzzs.

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Photo courtesy of Kathleen Greeson


Aaron Rodgers. Hey, I love the guy. But you can't have four turnovers and look indifferent on getting into the pile for loose fumbles and come out unscathed. And now there's no Mike McCarthy around to pin this loss on. Can Rodgers simultaneously be the best to ever do it, and not be a top-five QB if he only wins one Super Bowl?

Mattress Mack. The Houston-based furniture owner has lost more than $14 million on bets that we know about. Wowser, We should have got into the mattress BID-ness apparently.

Hall of Fame quarterback futures. Philip Rivers is on the move. It appears Tom Brady may be a lot closer to heading to L.A. and replacing Rivers with the Chargers than any of us may want to admit. Who knows what happens with Eli. We covered Rodgers and who knows what version of Big Ben will return next year.

Officiating. Hey, the job has never been harder, and the camera angles have never allowed fans more room to second-guess or see things they can't. But three things on three different sports: One, having watched more NBA this weekend — thanks ESPN for having LeBron at a decent hour — the inconsistency of calls is staggering when James gets fouled every time he enters the paint and 3-point chucker James Harden leads the NBA in FT attend is crazy. Second, college basketball officials need a refresher course on what is a block and a charge and a reminder that just because the home team flops does not mean you have to please the crowd. Egad. Finally, as we start to get an idea what a catch is in the NFL, does anyone really know what is or isn't pass interference and when it does or does not occur? Refs included?

 

Super Bowl Super Futures?

Four teams played Sunday; two teams advanced to the Super Bowl.

We covered one of those teams above, and the 49ers are at the front of their championship window.

The Chiefs have some defensive decisions to make on their roster with stud DT Chris Jones, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Bashaud Breeland and CB Kendall Fuller facing free agent decisions.

As for the Packers, the big three free agents will be tackle Bryan Bulaga and linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, who was excellent Sunday.

So all three of those teams figure to be every bit as competitive as next year, especially with their big offensive stars under contract through at least 2021.

And that then leaves the Titans, who evener Sunday on a magic carpet ride of postseason power that gave all of their fans hopes for being that team of destiny that captures the magic of the moment to win it all.

The Titans couldn't overcome the Chiefs for a myriad reasons — Mahomes' arm, Mahomes' feet, Reid's schemes, a defensive scheme that sold out to stop the run and made Ryan Tannehill beat them on third-down, et al. — but was this moment or just the first step?

A lot depends on what the Tennessee front office decides to do and how it sees the future.  

Ace TFP columnist Mark Wiedmer breaks it down in print here, and the main two talking points of course will be Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

That said, the numbers are there. The Titans are holding contracts worth $131-plus million for 2021. The 2021 salary cap projects to be around $200 million.

Let's start with the big two names we all know:

> Derrick Henry was the catalyst for this Titans' run. Period. The timing started with the QB change, but the power back was the power behind the playoff push. Period (again). So we can all fully expect Henry to want Zeke Elliot money (six years, $90 million). Likely result here is a franchise tag for Henry, which means he would get a one-year deal worth the average of the top-five salaries of the highest paid running backs. That would be about $12.5 million. That also runs the risk of a holdout or even a less-than-motivated Henry.

> Then there's Tannehill, who was the top-rated passer in the NFL this past season, and if he hits the free agent market he will get four-years, $100 million as a starting point. Seriously. A franchise QB tag would be a shade north of $30 million. Seriously (again).

And gang that does not even cover corner Logan Ryan, super impactful front seven player Kamalei Correa, who made a slew of plays Sunday and right tackle Jack Conklin.

And the money ranges beyond just cash. Do you pay Tannehill when you have five years of evidence that he's a journeyman and 15 weeks experience with him being great?

Do you pay a running back in a league when every other team that played Sunday had plug-in running backs and a free-agent signing like Mostert can do things like he did Sunday?

The games may be almost over, but the games are just beginning.  
 

 

This and that


— I'll be 50 this year and that milestone comes with some end of the road pontifications. I sure hope I live longer than 71, but we all have to go at some time, and few will get to go as peacefully and quietly and doing something they love like David Olney, the folk singer who lowered his head during a performance this last weekend and died quietly and instantly.    

— Our NFL picks — Chiefs -7 and over 52 and Packers plus-7.5 and over 46 — went 3-1. We're now 5-8-1 in the playoffs and 63-41-4 overall on the (cue Ron Jaworski) NATIONAL Football League. That's 60.6 against the number overall. That's entertaining.

— Speaking of picks, we picked that Florida would beat Auburn more than a week ago, but did not make it formal, so there's that. We'll take Cleveland minus-1 over New York in a game no one wants to watch but we can all hope is entertaining. And we'll ride with Denver, getting 2.5 at Minnesota. NBA picks are 9-3 this season. Pickers gotta pick, right Spy? And in honor of there being all of one meaningful football game left and speaking of pickers, here's the incomparable and only-one-name-needed Merle with "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good." ("I wish Coke was still cola that second verse is Southern-esque Shakespearean friends.)

— Speaking of lines, here, from William Hill, are baseball win totals for the 2020 season. The Yankees lead the way at 101.5 with the Dodgers a close second at 98.5. The Braves are fourth on that list at 92, and unless they add a legit middle of the order bat before the start of the season, well, I'd have to lean under on that.

— Are we really to a place that the pretending to pee like a dog is considering creative and cool? Because we all saw what happened in the Egg Bow. Now Tyreek Hill does it in pregame player intros? What's his walk-up music "Who Let the Dogs Out (to potty)" or what?
 
 

Today's questions

Who's in for a Super Bowl props contest? As Bluto asked in the Oscar-snubbed film Animal House, "Who's with me" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eX3fiQLo84

I'm game.

Of course it's a Monday. Weekend winners and losers. Share.

As for today, Jan. 20, let's review.

It's national penguin day. Say Hey Ron Cey.

Breaking Bad debuted on this day in 2008. Excellent show and if you have not seen it, well, that's on you.

UCLA lost to Elvin Hayes and Houston on this day in 1968.

Buzz Aldrin is 90 today. Rushmore of 'Buzz' and bee creative You know you liked that.

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