Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are headed to Super Bowl LV, but what\'s next for Aaron Rodgers?

Create: 2021-01-25
Update: 2021-01-25
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Monday, January 25, 2021
The countdown to Super Bowl LV is officially on and, as a Patriots fan, my allegiances are locked in: Tom Brady forever. You thought you were done with Brady's presence on football's biggest stage after his divorce from Bill Belichick? Think again, my friend. 
It'll be weird and somewhat bitter to watch Tom try to win his seventh ring, but the football fan in me is very, very excited for the matchup that we're going to witness a few weeks from now. I have to imagine you're a little excited yourself, even if you're sick of Brady.
You know what I'm not excited about? The TB12 diet. As part of a deal made this weekend, I agreed to go on Brady's ridiculous diet for a week and write about if Tampa Bay won yesterday. The Bucs won, and now the diet starts today. If you find me getting increasingly irritable this week, it's probably because I miss my own balanced diet of cigarettes, pizza and cheap beer.

📰 What you need to know
1. Super Bowl LV is set and will be the battle of GOAT vs. Baby GOAT 🏆
When I left you last week, I promised that I'd be able to tell you which teams would be playing in the Super Bowl this year. Luckily for you, I always keep my promises ... so now you can go ahead and look forward to the Chiefs defending their throne against the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. 
The biggest storyline here is the quarterback angle. On one side, you've got the greatest to ever do it, Tom Brady, making his 10th Super Bowl -- though this time he'll be in a different uniform and looking to secure his first ring without Bill Belichick. On the other side, you've got Patrick Mahomes, who might be the baby GOAT chasing Brady's legacy. If Brady wins this matchup, he creates a potentially insurmountable 7-1 Super Bowl differential against Mahomes.
The NFL probably couldn't have asked for a better draw. But before we get too invested in looking ahead, let's get some notes on what happened in the NFC Championship:
  • The Buccaneers defeated the Packers 31-26 on the strength of a great first half from Brady, some great defense and some odd decisions from Green Bay
  • Down by eight in the fourth quarter, Matt LaFleur elected to kick a short field goal rather than go for the tie on 4th & goal. The Packers never got the ball back
  • The Bucs essentially sealed the victory thanks to a semi-controversial pass interference call that elicited some strong takes
  • Green Bay intercepted Brady three times, dominated time of possession and topped Tampa in a number of categories but still lost
And how about the AFC Championship?
  • The Chiefs beat the Bills 38-24 thanks to their deadliest weapons coming up big
  • Kansas City got off to a slow start and spotted Buffalo a 9-0 lead out of the gate, but Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce all came alive and flexed the might of the Chiefs' offense
  • Too often the Bills had to settle for field goals and allowed KC to pull away 
As for last week's picks, Pete Prisco and myself had to settle for 1-1; I know well enough not to bet against Brady, but I was dumb enough to doubt Mahomes and that Chiefs' attack. (Prisco had the opposite picks.) As for the overall entertainment value brought by the games yesterday? Eh. The early game was a lot of fun, but it felt like we deserved a better conclusion -- the later game became one-sided about halfway through. 
And now begins the grueling (and often times insufferable) two-week leadup to the Super Bowl. 
2. What does the future look like for Aaron Rodgers? 🏈
The Packers' season came to a disappointing end yesterday, making it two straight seasons in which Green Bay has fallen just short of the Super Bowl. Was it also a disappointing ending to Rodgers' career in Green Bay? 
Almost immediately after the loss, questions were raised about Rodgers' future with the team -- questions that were fueled by some of the quarterback's postgame comments.
  • Rodgers, on where he goes from here: "I really don't know. There's a lot of unknowns going into this offseason now. I'm gonna have to take some time away, for sure, and just clear my head and just kinda see what's going on with everything. It's pretty tough right now, especially thinking about the guys that may or may not be here next year. That makes the finality of it all kind of you hit you like a ton of bricks...A lot of guys' ... futures are uncertain, myself included."  
Of course, we knew this sort of speculation would be coming eventually, especially after the Packers drafted Jordan Love in the first round of last year's draft ... but this soon? And after Rodgers had an MVP-caliber season and led them to the NFC Championship? Where do you draw the line between maximizing trade value and being crazy?
 For what it's worth, Packers coach Matt LaFleur says he wants Rodgers back.
  • LaFleur: "I mean, the guy is the MVP of this league. He's the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah. He better be back here. He's our leader."  
Ultimately, though, that decision doesn't belong to LaFleur, so let the rumors and speculation fly.
3. Down goes Conor McGregor 👊
We had a shocking upset in the main event at UFC 257 over the weekend, one that saw Conor McGregor knocked out in the Octagon on Fight Island. McGregor fell victim to a second-round KO from Dustin Poirier, who got his long-awaited revenge after a 2014 loss to the Irishman.
  • McGregor came out strong and fast, but was slowed down by consistent leg kicks from Poirier
  • Once Poirier broke down McGregor's base, he swarmed with a flurry of punches and dropped him at the 2:32 mark of Round 2
  • Poirier: "I'm happy, but I'm not surprised. I put in the work. Conor took this result very professionally over here. He's a pro, man. Nothing but respect. We're 1-1; maybe we have to do it again. I'm just happy in the place I am. I'm happy with the man I see in the mirror. This fight is great. This win is great."
  • McGregor: "It's a tough one to swallow. I put in a lot of work. I'm proud of my work."
We don't really know what's next for McGregor from here. He's "retired" multiple times already (seemingly for leverage in negotiations), but it sounds like he wants to keep fighting. He's 1-1 versus Poirier so perhaps there's a rubber match down the line. Or there's always the chance that Conor decides to stoop to Jake Paul's level and score a big paycheck to box the YouTuber that won't stop mocking him at every turn.
Either way, it's always a bit shocking (and unsettling) to see McGregor get humbled and be forced to walk back his bravado. Given what we know about his pride and ego, it's a good bet he's gonna wanna bounce back as quickly as possible. 
4. Where is Matthew Stafford headed? 🏈
No big shock here, but Matthew Stafford and the Lions have agreed to part ways this offseason, bringing an end to the quarterback's tenure in Detroit after 12 rather fruitless seasons -- at least in terms of team success (nobody knows how to waste an elite offensive player's prime years quite like the Detroit Lions!)
So, as Stafford nears a change of scenery and a chance to make a serious run in the twilight years of his career, what landing spots would make the most sense? That's a question that our Jordan Dajani explored, and here are his top three destinations for the soon-to-be 33-year-old QB:
  1. Washington Football Team: New WFT general manager Martin Mayhew was the GM in Detroit when Stafford was drafted with the No. 1 pick in 2009. They could stand to upgrade at the QB position and Stafford might make them a legitimate contender
  2. Colts: Philip Rivers is out and Stafford would make sense as a follow-up. Indy is a quarterback away from being legit and Stafford can bring quality play and veteran leadership, and he wouldn't be a one-year stopgap like Rivers was
  3. 49ers: San Francisco doesn't seem to be completely sold on Jimmy G. They're one year removed from making the Super Bowl and might give Stafford the best immediate shot to win.
There are a few other options on the table, including my Patriots. As a huge Stafford guy, I would absolutely love to see him in New England as long as Belichick commits to getting aggressive and putting weapons around him. Knowing how much of a gamer and competitor Stafford is, I just want to see him have a real shot to win and thrive -- something Detroit didn't really give to him. As a Pats fan, I do wonder if Matt Patricia's presence in New England would help or hurt the Patriots' pursuit of Stafford.
📝 Odds & Ends
  • Five members of Brazilian soccer club Palmas were killed in a plane crash Sunday morning  
  • DeShaun Watson has reportedly given the Texans his trade preferences and he's got his eyes set on the AFC East
  • New college basketball rankings? New college basketball rankings
📺 What to watch today
🏀 Heat vs. Nets, 7:30 p.m. | BKN -7.5 
🏀 No. 12 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 West Virginia, 9 p.m. | WVU -2.5 | TV: ESPN
🏒 Senators vs. Canucks, 10 p.m. | VAN -150 | TV: NHLN
📝 Top scores from last night
🏈 Buccaneers 31, Packers 26
The Buccaneers will become the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
💵 Winning wagers: TB +153, Over (53)  
🏈 Chiefs 38, Bills 24
Patrick Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
💵 Winning wagers: KC -3, Over (54.5)
 
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