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Chicago Bears put pass-rusher Robert Quinn on reserve/COVID-19 list



LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears have placed veteran pass-rusher Robert Quinn on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.

Quinn tested positive for COVID-19, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. If Quinn is asymptomatic and is vaccinated, he would be able to return once he produces two negative tests 24 hours apart. If he is vaccinated and develops symptoms, he would be able to return once he produces two negative tests 24 hours apart and is asymptomatic for 48 hours. If he is unvaccinated, he would have to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.

After a sluggish first season in Chicago where he recorded just two sacks in 16 games, Quinn is off to a tremendous start in 2021.

Through six games, Quinn, who signed a free-agent deal with the Bears two springs ago that guaranteed $30 million dollars, already has 5.5 sacks (9th in the NFL) and a forced fumble.

Quinn and Khalil Mack (six sacks) are the top pass rushing duo in the league in terms of combined sacks.

“He’s a max effort guy, and so his ability to do it for the number of plays that he’s able to do it, at this stage of his career, is impressive for me,” Bears outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey said about Quinn on Monday.

“I think he’s doing a really good job this season of taking care of his body, especially in between games when he has a pretty high rep count.”

The timing of Quinn going on the COVID-19 list is particularly bad since the Bears (3-3) face Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers (5-1) on Sunday in Tampa.

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The making of Cooper Kupp



LOS ANGELES — Wednesday nights featured dollar beers at Rokko’s Teriyaki.

That meant a hectic evening for the local eatery in the small college town of Cheney, Washington.

But Cooper Kupp, now the Los Angeles Rams‘ No. 1 receiver, didn’t frequent the place for drinks.

After football practice, Kupp drove his white Nissan Pathfinder — often with teammates in passenger seats hoping their ride wouldn’t experience one of its infamous breakdowns — across the Eastern Washington campus from the red-turf Roos Field to the restaurant, where a special someone would be expecting him.

Behind the cash register or serving orders in Styrofoam containers, his wife, Anna Kupp, worked her first job.

“I supported us monetarily through college,” Anna said, laughing, almost in disbelief she pulled it off. “I was working full-time so that he didn’t have to worry about that, so that he could focus.”

Cooper’s goals pertained to football, and he discovered after a summer of morning workouts followed by an afternoon landscaping gig that he felt exhausted when the season rolled around.

Football, along with school, had to be his full-time job. Anna supported and sacrificed, while also attending college, in every way she could.

“Without a doubt, there’s no doubt in my mind, not only would I not be here where I am today without her or accomplishing the things that I would be doing,” Kupp said. “I really believe I may not be in this — I may not be in the NFL if it wasn’t for her and what she has inspired in me and pushed me to do.”

Kupp’s extended family, Anna and Cooper Jamison, one of the couple’s two young sons, cheered on Kupp from a suite at SoFi Stadium as the Rams dominated the Arizona Cardinals in a wild-card round of the playoffs. The Rams face Tom Brady and the No. 2 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC).

A third-round pick from an FCS college in 2017, Kupp became a breakout star this season, earning a unanimous All-Pro selection and being named to his first Pro Bowl.

Averaging 893 receiving yards and scoring 24 touchdowns over the previous four seasons as a key playmaker on the Rams’ offense, this season Kupp became the fourth player in NFL history to earn the triple crown as the league leader in receptions (145) receiving yards (1,947) and receiving touchdowns (16).

“He’s been such a special player, not only this year, but really since we drafted him five years ago,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “Love Cooper Kupp.”

Barely recruited out of Davis High School in Yakima, Washington, Kupp’s two college scholarship offers were from Idaho State and Eastern Washington.

One of four siblings and the son of Craig and Karin, Kupp has some NFL pedigree in his family. His grandfather, Jake Kupp, was a Pro Bowl guard for the New Orleans Saints in the 1970s and his father was a quarterback and fifth-round pick by the New York Giants in 1990. He played briefly for the Phoenix Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. Both his grandpa and dad passed on knowledge that helped Cooper’s NFL pursuit.

But when asked on a late-October day after practice, as his historic season mounted, what we don’t already know about him, Kupp was quick to respond.

Anna, he said, doesn’t get enough — or really hasn’t received any — credit for his accomplishments.

And she should.

‘She brings the most out of him’



Cooper Kupp reveals the drills he did with his father during childhood that have paid dividends in his NFL career.

It could be curious, given his track record of dedication, why Kupp was so adamant that he wouldn’t have been able to succeed at the highest level without Anna.

“Anna is his rock,” said Austin Wagner, Kupp’s best friend from high school. “I don’t think there’s a Cooper without what Anna’s done for him. She’s a person that really expects a lot out of the people around her and has kind of a high threshold for excellence …

“Cooper works harder because of that.”

Kupp and then-Anna Croskrey met at a track meet as high school seniors.

“I knew that she was the one that I wanted to marry when we had first met back in high school,” Kupp said. “I told my mom the day I met her, ‘I’m going to marry this girl.'”

They began dating before Anna headed to the SEC, where she competed as a heptathlete at the University of Arkansas. But not long after, they decided the distance and separation was untenable.

Anna enrolled at Eastern Washington, losing nearly two years of course credits that wouldn’t transfer and caused her to double-time it so she could graduate on time.

She and Kupp, both grounded in their faith and family, became inseparable.

“Coop and Anna — they were a team,” said Zach Wimberly, a former Eastern Washington teammate. “No matter what they did, they’re doing it together.”

It only seemed natural that they would get married the summer following her return. No need to wait.

“We just were so aligned in terms of what our goals were and what we wanted to do moving forward and what we wanted to be about as a couple,” Kupp said. “And the belief that football was the community, was the place that I was supposed to be, that we were supposed to be and that’s where God placed us.”

The question of “Why so soon?” often arose — Cooper was 22 and Anna 21 — with skepticism they would miss the rite-of-passage young adults experience in college.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Why did you guys get married so young? Didn’t you feel you were missing out?'” Anna said. “And you’re telling them, ‘No, we actually think the opposite. We feel so lucky to have found someone that we love and cherish so much so early.'”

A piece of paper was taped to Eastern Washington’s locker room white board, a sign-up sheet to attend their June 20, 2015, wedding after their sophomore year of college.

It was one way to pare down the original 800-guest list, given the inclusion of high school and small-town family friends, and a way to ensure they wouldn’t be wasting a lot of money on teammates who, simply put, probably wouldn’t care about a formal invite.

“I was like, ‘OK, I know I’m not going to get any RSVPs, these are college guys,” Anna said, laughing, before saying they did get the guest list down to 400. “We also — my parents, they don’t drink alcohol at all, so we told people, ‘If you want to drink you need to bring your own alcohol.’ We’re not trying to be stingy, but at the same time, my dad’s not gonna pay for that.”

“You’d look out and we’d see some of our teammates with a six pack on the wedding table,” said Wagner, Kupp’s best man. “It was a lot of fun.”

Often, where you’d see Cooper, there’d be Anna. It was the college experience they wanted and created.

“Being able to find time to be together and find meaningful time together, but also getting things done, I’m just so appreciative,” Kupp said, “Appreciative of her and her willingness to do all that.”

Anna was a fixture at pregame movie nights with Kupp and a few of his closest teammates.

“Movie nights were the best,” said teammate Jordan West, one of Kupp’s groomsmen. “We’d watch everything from ‘Finding Nemo’ to ‘Gladiator’ to ‘Miracle.'”

She would work out on the field during offseason 7-on-7 contests and challenge Cooper in the weight room.

“I’d go and do a CrossFit workout with her and she would just run laps around me in these workouts,” Kupp said. “I mean, it is unbelievable.”

She’d watch film with him, usually sitting at receivers coach Nick Edward’s desk, where she’d bring her homework or a book.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’d walk in and Coop would be sitting there watching film and Anna would be there with him as well,” Wimberly said.

And on game days, Anna would put together goodie bags, with cookies and a passage or note written by Cooper, to set at players’ lockers.

“This can’t get me into too much trouble now, but I had a key to the facilities and was able to get into the locker room whenever I wanted to,” Kupp admitted. “So I’d just give her the keys to go into the locker room and she would put them in guys’ lockers and get out of there.”

“If you showed up in your locker and you had cookies from Anna before the game,” Wimberly said, “you were blessed.”

When Kupp suffered an AC sprain in his shoulder and could barely move or lift his arm. Anna was his caretaker, propping him up with pillows and helping him get dressed.

“Coop had that support system with Anna,” West said. “She was always there for him.”

And then there were the finances. A young, married couple in college, Anna and Cooper wanted to prove they could make it on their own without relying on their parents.

“I’m sure if we had asked our parents like, ‘Hey, we really need some help here, they certainly would’ve helped out,” Kupp said. “But as a married couple, we thought we needed to be able to separate and be us and take care of ourselves.”

Their efforts paid off, as Kupp was named a four-time consensus FCS All-American and established 15 FCS records at Eastern Washington.

Making history

The capacity crowd at SoFi Stadium bellowed, “Cooooooop” more times than one could keep track of in the Rams’ season opener.

Kupp beat every defender, then caught a 56-yard pass in stride for a touchdown in an eventual rout of the Chicago Bears that saw him catch seven passes for 108 yards.

In Week 2, Kupp went off again, this time shedding defenders for yards after the catch, finishing with nine receptions for 163 yards and two touchdowns, while giving the Indianapolis Colts‘ defense fits.

His connection with Rams first-year quarterback Matthew Stafford appeared flawless.

“He’s one of those guys that’s about as overlooked as anybody in the league,” Stafford said after their second game together. “He’s extremely talented, does everything that we ask him to do, whether it’s blocking for his other guys on the team, whether it be receivers or running backs, running down the field making big plays, catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage and going for big plays.”

With two of Kupp’s previous three seasons cut short due to injuries, and given the nature of the NFL as far as defensive adjustments, it seemed improbable the 6-foot-2, 208-pound receiver would be able to keep up the pace.

But the following week, he caught another nine passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns in a win over this weekend’s opponent, the defending champion Buccaneers, and then a couple weeks later put together a three-game streak with over 100 receiving yards in each contest and five receiving touchdowns.

And he just kept going during the Rams’ 12-5, NFC West-winning season.

“The work ethic, just the way he goes about it, the attention to detail — all those things add up and you see the results,” said Odell Beckham Jr., who joined the Rams 10 games into Kupp’s season-long tear. “Along with being an actual phenomenal talent and football player and athlete and all those things, it’s the attention to detail for me.”

This season, the first playing on a three-year, $47.25 million contract extension, Kupp surpassed 90 receiving yards in all but one game. He leads the NFL in yards after catch with 848 — 78 yards more than the next closest receiver, Deebo Samuel, and ranks second in the league with 237 yards after first contact.

Kupp’s 89 receptions for first down top the NFL, and of his league-high 192 targets this season, he has five drops.



The Fantasy Focus crew unanimously agree Cooper Kupp is this season’s fantasy MVP.

He became the Rams single-season receiving yards leader in Week 17, surpassing Hall of Fame receiver Isaac Bruce’s previous mark of 1,781 yards. And he fell just short of becoming the NFL’s single-season receptions and receiving yards leader.

“I was telling him the other day,” Anna said, as she was overcome with emotion, “I was saying I’m proud of you in all the moments. I’m proud of you when you wake up at two in the morning to go rock our kid, proud of you when you wake up at four in the morning to go watch film and I’m proud of you when you break NFL records.”

Kupp 2.0

Kupp’s close friends from Yakima and Eastern Washington remain in regular contact.

All said, despite his NFL success, fame and contracts, he remains the same person, though they’ve noticed a few upgrades.

Known for his ability to eat, Kupp once downed 12 tacos before a workout in high school and sleepovers at friends meant their moms would be making up to four breakfasts for Kupp — before he became too embarrassed to admit he was still hungry. In college, a $10 Pizza Hut box — pizza, breadsticks and cinnamon sticks — would be dessert to a $5 Subway footlong,

“There were very few times where any food was left with Coop,” West said, chuckling.

These days, Kupp is selective about what he puts into his body — clean eating only, such as farm and ocean to table, after Anna helped him discover the science behind nutrition and the effect it could have on his performance and recovery.

And when his friends see pregame photos from Rams games or catch his postgame news conferences, they know their guy — who used to don baggy Eastern Washington sweats — isn’t dressing himself.

“It’s a funny thing to see because I remember all the weekend of us playing World of Warcraft,” Wagner said. “So it’s funny to see the transformation.”

The style — like the white denim jacket he wore after a win over the Seahawks that had colored tassels hanging down the back — and the swag, such as the green tie-dye matching set that featured smiley faces on it that he rocked in Indy — that’s all Anna.

Kupp is proud of his success, though he rarely addresses his personal accomplishments and credits his Rams teammates.

When asked what it’s meant to have his family, Anna and their two young boys by his side for all that he’s achieved, Kupp — not typically lost for words — can’t provide an immediate answer.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Kupp said. “I really feel like I’ll probably have to sit down and write it out and put it together. … I just don’t think I can sit here and tell you just off the top of my head and have it do her the justice that she deserves for all this.”

Through tears, Anna said Kupp was deserving of all the recognition.

“More than anyone,” she said, “I see the work. I see his sacrifice, his dedication to his craft, his time. It has been so special to watch.”

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NFL divisional-round playoff game picks, schedule guide, bold predictions, odds, injuries, matchup keys and more



The NFL divisional round for the 2021 season is stacked with four great matchups, and we got you covered with what you need to know heading into the second weekend of playoff football. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. Matt Bowen picks out a key matchup to watch for every game, and Kevin Seifert tells us what to know about the officiating. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL playoff football.

Let’s get into the full divisional-round slate, which features the six wild-card game winners from last week and each conference’s No. 1 seed, fresh off a bye week. The weekend culminates with a Sunday night matchup between the Bills and Chiefs, which has the makings of one of the best games of the season.

Jump to:

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
60.3 | Spread: TEN -3.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: The Titans have generated 35 sacks and 153 QB pressures using just a four-man pass rush (both ranked second in the NFL), and they have blitzed on only 18% of their rushes this season. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow‘s QBR was 83.7 against the blitz this season (third), but his 13.6 QBR when pressured was 20th. Impacting Burrow with the front four and dropping seven into coverage will be the key to the Titans winning the game. — Turron Davenport

Bold prediction: Burrow will outgain Titans running back Derrick Henry by 200 yards (obviously including passing yardage). That’s what it will take for Cincinnati to upset top-seeded Tennessee. Burrow has been in great form the past several weeks, so expect Cincinnati to ride the quarterback’s hot hand as it looks to push the tempo in Henry’s expected return. — Ben Baby

Stat to know: Over the final three weeks of the regular season, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill posted a 79.4 Total QBR (third best in the NFL over that span), threw seven touchdown passes and didn’t have a single interception. But he also did a lot on the ground this year, as his seven rushing touchdowns were the league’s second most among quarterbacks behind Jalen Hurts‘ 10.

Bowen’s game-plan key: Cincinnati needs to create matchups for receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd out of inside alignments to beat the Titans’ underneath zone defenders. Read more on E+.

Injuries: Bengals | Titans

What to know for officiating: Referee Clete Blakeman, whose regular-season crew ranked No. 7 in the NFL with 14.6 flags per game, will preside over a game that includes the NFL’s least penalized team (Bengals, 84). The Titans, meanwhile, ranked No. 17 with 121 flags. Blakeman tied for the second-most roughing-the-passer flags during the regular season (12), but the Bengals and Titans committed only two such fouls apiece. — Seifert

Betting nugget: Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel is 8-0 both outright and against the spread with at least nine days between games. Read more on E+.

Baby’s pick: Bengals 37, Titans 31
Davenport’s pick: Titans 28, Bengals 24
FPI prediction: TEN, 59.5% (by an average of 3.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Bengals DE Hendrickson clears concussion protocol, OK to play SaturdayTitans’ Henry passes test with contact practiceWhy Burrow has kept a chessboard by his locker this season‘I play to win games’: Confident Tannehill brushes off critics as Titans begin playoffs

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
76.2 | Spread: GB -6 (47)

What to watch for: There’s cold, and then there’s Lambeau Field cold. It will be the latter on Saturday night, with temperatures in the single digits expected throughout the game. Earlier in the year, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “the colder, the better.” But Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo might not feel the same way. Since 2014, there have been 101 different starting quarterbacks in games with kickoff temperatures below 40 degrees, and Garoppolo isn’t one of them. Even during his time in New England, he took only three snaps in games when it was below 40 at kickoff, and all three were kneel-downs. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: In a game that feels like it could go either way, Packers kicker Mason Crosby will send his team back to the NFC Championship Game with a second game-winning field goal in the closing seconds in as many games against San Francisco this season. The Niners have the run game and physical defensive front to keep this close, but Rodgers will find the late-game magic once again to set Crosby up for the winning points. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: The 49ers use pre-snap motion on an NFL-high 77% of their plays, and they used it on a season-high 88% of their plays in the Week 3 loss to the Packers. However, they averaged a season-low 5.0 yards per play with motion in that game. One player whom the Packers will have to watch on pre-snap movement is receiver/running back Deebo Samuel, who is seeking to become the fifth 49ers player to reach 100 scrimmage yards and score a touchdown in consecutive playoff games.

Bowen’s game-plan key: Look for Green Bay to hit wide receiver Davante Adams on first down off play-action. His 22 such receptions tied for the league lead. Read more on E+.



Rob Ninkovich says Aaron Rodgers knows he’s come up short in the postseason and that this might be one of his last chances at a Super Bowl.

Injuries: 49ers | Packers

What to know for officiating: Referee Ron Torbert’s regular-season crew threw the fourth-fewest flags (12.3 per game), and he was assigned to a game that includes the NFL’s second-least penalized team (Packers, 86) and the 14th-least (49ers, 117). San Francisco cornerback Josh Norman, who has been in and out of the team’s lineup, has by far the most penalties of any player in this game (10), including six for defensive pass interference. — Seifert

Betting nugget: The over is 14-6 in playoff games when Rodgers is starting, including 6-0 since 2016 and 4-0 with coach Matt LaFleur at the helm for Green Bay. Read more on E+.

Wagoner’s pick: Packers 26, 49ers 24
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 31, 49ers 17
FPI prediction: GB, 64.5% (by an average of 4.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Samuel created his own position: ‘Wide back’What return of Alexander, Smith, others would mean for Packers’ playoff chancesConfident San Francisco defense makes 49ers a contender for NFC titleTop moments from the 49ers-Packers rivalryGaroppolo has ‘slightly’ sprained throwing shoulder

Sunday, 3 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
87.3 | Spread: TB -3 (48)

What to watch for: The Rams have been short-handed in their secondary, but the Bucs might be without All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who suffered a high ankle sprain last week against the Eagles. That’s a big blow for Tampa Bay against arguably the league’s most devastating pass rush. The Buccaneers might need to rely more on their defense, which nearly pitched a shutout last week against the Eagles but surrendered 331 passing yards and four touchdowns to Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford & Co. in these teams’ Week 3 meeting (a 34-24 win for Los Angeles). — Jenna Laine

Bold prediction: Stafford and Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady will each pass for three touchdowns in a game that will be decided in the final minutes. The Rams acquired Stafford with the belief that the veteran QB would play a key role in propelling them to a Super Bowl inside their home stadium. Stafford will have the chance to prove he’s that guy against a seven-time Super Bowl winner. He knows he’ll have to get his team into the end zone often to counter Brady and the Tampa Bay offense; Brady’s 32 touchdown passes in 16 career divisional-round games are 14 more than any other QB has thrown. So watch for both quarterbacks’ numbers to be off the charts. — Lindsey Thiry

Stat to know: Will Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey shadow Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans? Evans saw Ramsey across from him on just 18% of his routes in the regular-season matchup in Week 3, per NFL Next Gen Stats. And in two games against the Rams over the past two years, Evans caught eight of 10 passes for 101 yards when seeing someone else. Against Ramsey, he pulled in five of nine passes for 54 yards.

Bowen’s game-plan key: Expect Brady to look for Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski in the middle of the field. Gronk caught 38 of his 55 total receptions this season on throws inside the numbers. Read more on E+.

Injuries: Rams | Buccaneers

What to know for officiating: Referee Shawn Hochuli’s regular-season crew threw the third-most flags (15.5 per game), but the Rams and Buccaneers were among the league’s 10 least penalized teams in 2021. The Rams ranked No. 3 (92), and the Buccaneers ranked No. 9 (107). Hochuli’s crew made 57 calls for offensive holding (third most), but the Rams and Buccaneers were flagged only 16 and 20 times for it, respectively (both within the seventh fewest in the NFL). — Seifert

Betting nugget: Since 2010, Los Angeles is 8-1 against the spread when facing Tampa Bay, including 2-1 under coach Sean McVay. And the past five meetings went over the total. Read more on E+.

Thiry’s pick: Buccaneers 34, Rams 32
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Rams 28
FPI prediction: TB, 65.8% (by an average of 5.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: The making of Kupp: Rams receiver credits wife’s inspiration for star turnArians: Likely to come down to wire whether Buccaneers RT Wirfs can play SundayStafford: Toe won’t be prohibitive against BucsSource: Arians fined $50K for striking safety AdamsRams’ defense sets tone in wild-card win, readies for rematch with Brady

Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
96.3 | Spread: KC -2 (53.5)

What to watch for: The Bills did a great job of shutting down the big plays when they faced Patrick Mahomes in Week 5, limiting the Chiefs to one pass longer than 20 yards. Buffalo, meanwhile, connected on four passes of at least 30 yards, with two going for touchdowns. The Chiefs have to find a way to win — or at least stay even with the Bills — in this category, or they might experience another result like that 18-point beatdown. — Adam Teicher

Bold prediction: Bills quarterback Josh Allen will rush for at least 50 yards and throw at least three touchdown passes on Sunday. The Bills’ offense has rushed for 110-plus yards and averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in six straight games, the second-longest streak in the NFL this year (Eagles). That streak has coincided with Allen being used more as a rusher, which will continue against the Chiefs. He had 59 yards on 11 carries in their meeting earlier this year. Additionally, the offensive line will keep him clean, extending its sackless streak to five games, and allow him to build on a five-pass-TD wild-card outing in a much closer divisional-round game. — Alaina Getzenberg

Stat to know: Mahomes leads the NFL in play-action touchdowns, while Allen ranks second. Both quarterbacks have top-10 QBR numbers on play-action plays, as well. But the defensive side of things could be important: The Bills have allowed the league’s lowest opponent QBR with play-action, while the Chiefs’ defense has allowed the league’s highest.

Bowen’s game-plan key: Kansas City running back Jerick McKinnon should play an important role in the Chiefs’ screen game against Buffalo’s two-deep zone coverages. Read more on E+.



Rob Ninkovich says the Chiefs’ key to victory against the Bills will be going toe-to-toe with a top defense.

Injuries: Bills | Chiefs

What to know for officiating: Referee John Hussey’s regular-season crew threw the third-fewest flags per game (12.1), but he has been assigned to officiate two of the most penalized teams in the league. The Bills ranked No. 29 (139) and the Chiefs No. 24 (129). The Chiefs were flagged for 36 offensive holding fouls, third most in the NFL, while Hussey’s crew called 40, the sixth most among crews. Hussey’s crew called the league’s second-most taunting fouls (seven), but it threw the fewest flags for illegal contact, defensive holding and defensive pass interference combined (18). — Seifert

Betting nugget: Buffalo road games are 12-4-1 to the over in the past two seasons. Read more on E+.

Getzenberg’s pick: Bills 34, Chiefs 31
Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 27, Bills 24
FPI prediction: BUF, 52.1% (by an average of 0.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Manning-Brady 2.0? Why Mahomes vs. Allen could be AFC’s next great QB rivalryMahomes is preparing for his next job as team ownerAllen’s elaborate handshakes with Bills teammates about more than just having funMcKinnon gives Chiefs something to think about at running backBills’ No. 1 defense faces stiffer test vs. much-improved MahomesChiefs’ Gay arrested on misdemeanor criminal property damage charge

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Los Angeles Chargers’ Tom Telesco ‘focused on 2022,’ not thinking about job security



COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers general manager Tom Telesco thinks the team has a good foundation with quarterback Justin Herbert and coach Brandon Staley. He also realizes fans are frustrated about not making the postseason for the third straight year.

The Chargers finished 9-8 in Staley’s first season but missed the playoffs after losing three of their final four games. That included a 35-32 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in the last game of the regular season.

Under Telesco, the Chargers have reached the playoffs only twice during his nine-year tenure and finished with a winning record four times. The Chargers are 71-78 since 2013, with their .477 winning percentage ranking 18th in the league.

“I don’t think a lot about job security,” Telesco said during his season-ending news conference Thursday. “I think that there’s a lot there to be proud of with this football team and how they play. I understand that people want results right now, and they should have results right now, but this team is different than the team a couple of years ago. I’m just focused on 2021 and then getting better for 2022.”

Los Angeles began the season with wins in four of its first five games, but won back-to-back games only once after early October. While Staley’s fourth-down decisions late in the season brought plenty of second-guessing, Telesco likes the aggressive mentality the Chargers coach has brought.

“I love the identity that we play with. I know, on the outside, that not everyone may agree with how we play, but it’s who we are, and I love it,” Telesco said. “That’s what we are, and that’s the way that we’re going to play moving forward. You know what you get with us; we’re going to play aggressive — it’s not reckless.

“All of these decisions, even though they’re made in real-time, there’s research involved in it prior to the game.”

A big reason the Chargers didn’t advance to the postseason is their defense. They struggled in their transition to Staley’s attacking 3-4 scheme. The Chargers hired Staley after he made the Rams the top-ranked defense in 2020.

The Chargers allowed 269 points after halftime, tied with the 2015 New Orleans Saints for most since 1991. The 138.9 yards per game allowed on the ground was fourth-worst in the league and worst by a Chargers defense since 2003.

Offenses converted 49.5% of their third-down opportunities, the third-highest rate since 1991.

“It just didn’t come along as quickly enough, on defense, as I thought it would,” Telesco said. “We had a lot of stretches this year that the players that are out there did some pretty good things, but we weren’t consistent enough by any means. We have to take a good look at that, and we have to get better, there’s no doubt about that.

“Some of it is alignment, assignment and technique. Some of it is personnel, and some of it is just being in the first year of the defense.”

Four of the Chargers’ key free agents are on the defensive side of the ball — tackles Justin Jones and Linval Joseph, along with linebackers Kyzir White and Uchenna Nwosu.

The Chargers’ biggest free agent will be wide receiver Mike Williams, who set a career high in catches (76) and yards (1,146). Telesco did not give any hints about possibly using the franchise tag on Williams if the two sides can’t agree on an extension.

While most of the offseason priorities will be on upgrading the defense, Telesco will also take a look at the right side of the offensive line and continue to build depth throughout the entire roster. Los Angeles is likely to enter free agency with nearly $70 million in cap space, second-most in the league. Telesco will also look at signing safety Derwin James to an extension.

The more immediate issues include filling coaching staff openings after special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II and assistant Mayur Chaudhari were fired last Friday. Telesco also said that director of player personnel JoJo Wooden will interview for the Chicago Bears‘ GM opening.

The one area Telesco and Staley do not have to worry about is quarterback after Herbert became the first in franchise history to throw for at least 5,000 yards (5,014) and 38 touchdowns. Telesco, though, discounted the notion there was a competitive window due to Herbert being on a rookie contract.

“You have to build it differently, but certainly you can do it. I don’t see that we only have a year or two window with this quarterback’s contract. It’s not how I look at it at all,” Telesco said. “We’re focused on 2022. What can we do in 2022 to go win a championship? It doesn’t really bother me whether the quarterback is on a rookie deal or on an Aaron Rodgers deal.

“Either way, we’ll make it work.”

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