Analysis: Mahomes, Hurts set for historic matchup

Mon Jan 30 5:59am ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, left, offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65) and teammates react after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


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Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, left, and teammate quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrate after the NFL AFC Championship playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 23-20. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after the NFL AFC Championship playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 23-20. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, center, reacts while speaking toTerry Bradshaw, left, after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. The Eagles won 31-7. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)


PHILADELPHIA (AP) Black quarterbacks have come a long way in the NFL since Fritz Pollard became the first to play in the league in 1923 and Doug Williams was the first to start and win a Super Bowl following the 1987 season.

Now, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will be the first Black QBs to face off in a Super Bowl.

It's fitting that a season which began with 11 Black QBs starting in Week 1 will end with a historic matchup.

Mahomes can become the first two-time winner if he leads the Kansas City Chiefs to victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 12. Hurts aims to become the fourth Black QB to win the Super Bowl, joining Williams, Mahomes and Russell Wilson.

Steve McNair, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Wilson also started in the Super Bowl and lost.

Michael Vick was the first Black QB selected No. 1 overall in the draft in 2001. McNair became the first Black QB to win MVP in 2003. Mahomes and Lamar Jackson won it back-to-back years.

They all had to overcome stereotypes to get to this point.

Jackson said a scout from the Los Angeles Chargers asked him to run routes at the NFL combine in 2018. The Baltimore Ravens ended up selecting him with the 32nd pick in the first round and he was MVP in his second season.

Donovan McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowl QB who started five NFC championship games for the Eagles, was told by some college scouts that he had to play running back or wide receiver. He wouldn't switch positions, went to Syracuse to play quarterback and was drafted No. 2 overall in 1999 by Philadelphia.

Hurts began his NFL career in 2020 as an all-purpose QB after the Eagles took him in the second round. Playing behind Carson Wentz, Hurts had 12 rushing attempts, one catch and threw just three passes in his first nine games before taking over as Philadelphia's QB.

He clearly has not forgotten that the decision to draft him in the second round of the 2020 draft was widely criticized by reporters and fans.

''My first year here, (people) probably didn't even want to draft me here,'' Hurts said Sunday. ''It was probably one of those things. But it always handles itself.''

Neither Hurts nor Mahomes celebrated their conference championship wins too much. The main goal remains ahead. They each want one more win.

Hurts puffed a victory cigar after the Eagles routed the San Francisco 49ers 31-7 but he showed little emotion, per usual, in his postgame news conference.

''I don't really know how to feel to be honest. You work really hard to put yourself in this position and I'm forever grateful,'' Hurts said. ''Only God knows the things that each individual on this team has been able to overcome for us to come together as a team and do something special as a group. That's what means the most. I always want to go out there and give my best regardless of what's going on because I don't want to let down the guy next to me. That makes us all go harder.''

Hurts, a finalist along with Mahomes for AP NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, missed two games late in the season with a shoulder injury. The Eagles haven't had to lean on him in two lopsided playoff wins. He has only 275 yards passing and two TDs along with 73 yards rushing and two scores.

''I know I've been through a lot personally, but I don't want to steer away from the direction of how good this team has been at playing together, being together, and challenging one another,'' Hurts said. ''When we experience some painful times and some tough times, we always found a way to overcome. You want to be going into a situation like this, and we have a chance to go out there and win it all, so we want to prepare to go do that.''

Mahomes battled through an ankle injury to help the Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 to advance to their third Super Bowl appearance in four years.

He had no intention of lighting up a victory cigar after a hard-fought win.

''I don't think we have any cigars, but we'll be ready to go at the Super Bowl,'' Mahomes said, poking fun at Joe Burrow's penchant for puffing those after big wins.

Only one QB can win the Super Bowl. Whether it's Hurts or Mahomes, it's another victory for the Black QBs who were overlooked throughout the years.

Player Notes
Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jan 30 9:10am ET
Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling stepped up on Sunday with numerous injuries to other receivers on the team, catching six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown while sharing the team lead in targets with eight. The yardage total was his highest as a Chief. If the Chiefs can get healthy by the Super Bowl, MVS will likely see a reduction in his production, but there's the possibility that he'll be forced into a larger role again.

From RotoBaller

JuJu Smith-Schuster Jan 30 9:10am ET
JuJu Smith-Schuster

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered a knee injury in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. He finished the game with just one catch for seven yards. The former Steelers wideout has now finished with 35 yards or less in five consecutive games, so even if he's good to go in time for the Super Bowl, his recent production hasn't been encouraging. Keep an eye on the injury report to see which way Smith-Schuster trends over the next two weeks.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Hurts Jan 30 9:10am ET
Jalen Hurts

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 15-of-25 passes for 121 yards, gained 39 yards on 11 carries, and scored a rushing touchdown during the team's 31-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The third-year quarterback did not need to do much at all in this game, as Philadelphia dominated the 49ers' defense on the ground and had the game well in hand entering the second half. The aggressive nature of the Eagles' offense dissipated after San Francisco was down two scores and needed to trot out an injured Brock Purdy (elbow), who could not push the ball downfield. This, coupled with a heavy pass rush and coverage that exceeded expectations coming into the game, led to a disappointing stat line for the 24-year-old. However, Hurts should have a much better fantasy performance against the Kansas City defense in the Super Bowl. Many playing in DFS lineups will start Patrick Mahomes over Hurts, but the Eagles starting quarterback is still a viable option between the two that could finish with more points.

From RotoBaller

Travis Kelce Jan 30 8:50am ET
Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (back) was a game-time decision for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he suited up and ended up leading the team in receptions, catching seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Kelce has been quarterback Patrick Mahomes' top weapon all season long, so it's not a shock to see him continue to look Kelce's way, even with Kelce banged up a little bit. Kelce will be an elite DFS option against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 30 8:30am ET
Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked impacted at times by the ankle sprain he suffered last week against the Jaguars, but he still managed to go 29-for-43 for 326 yards with a pair of touchdowns while also adding eight rushing yards, including a five-yard scamper that helped set up the game-winning field goal as the Chiefs took down the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes will have another two weeks now to rest up before the Super Bowl meeting with the Eagles, so expect to see him look much closer to 100% for that contest.

From RotoBaller

Isiah Pacheco Jan 30 8:30am ET
Isiah Pacheco

Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco saw a lot of usage in Sunday's AFC Championship Game win over the Bengals, with 10 carries and five receptions. He didn't produce a ton on the ground as he finished with just 26 rushing yards, but that was enough to lead the team, as the rest of the Chiefs combined for 10 carries and 16 yards. The passing game was there Pacheco made a real impact, as he turned his five catches into 59 yards. He likely won't get quite as much usage against the Eagles in the Super Bowl, but it's an encouraging sign to see how much more usage he had than the team's other running backs.

From RotoBaller

Evan McPherson Jan 30 12:30am ET
Evan McPherson

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson made both of his field goal attempts during the AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. The 23-year-old remained perfect in the postseason, extending his streak to 19 successful field goal attempts. While McPherson took a step back this season to a degree, he'll draw plenty of attention from fantasy managers heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Hayden Hurst Jan 30 12:20am ET
Hayden Hurst

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst finished with four catches for 37 yards during the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs. The 29-year-old scored a touchdown against the Bills in the divisional round. While he came close to another one on Sunday night, he ultimately fell short. Hurst finished the regular season with 52 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Although he failed to live up to expectations in some ways, he may have done enough to earn himself another deal with the Bengals heading into the 2023-24 campaign. However, Hurst's fantasy stock will be limited until he proves he can be a consistent contributor.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 30 12:10am ET
Tyler Boyd

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (thigh) finished with two catches for 40 yards in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The veteran looked good early in this one. However, he suffered a left thigh injury in the second quarter, so he was a non-factor for the remainder of the night. The 29-year-old finished the regular season with 58 receptions for 762 yards and five touchdowns. While the duo of Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase will continue to limit Boyd's ceiling as long as he stays in Cincinnati, he'll remain a flex option in deep fantasy setups heading into the 2023-24 campaign, barring a severe injury to his leg.

From RotoBaller

Ja'Marr Chase Jan 29 11:50pm ET
Ja'Marr Chase

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase finished with six receptions for 75 yards during the AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The former LSU Tiger found the end zone in five of his previous six games entering this one. However, he played second fiddle to Tee Higgins, who led the Bengals in receiving on the night. Chase missed time throughout the year because of a hip injury. Yet, he still had 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns off a career-high 87 catches. Although Justin Jefferson is the consensus overall top fantasy wideout, Chase may surpass him for that spot by the end of the 2023-24 campaign, especially with Joe Burrow as his quarterback.

From RotoBaller

Tee Higgins Jan 29 11:40pm ET
Tee Higgins

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins finished with six catches for a team-high 83 yards during the loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. He also scored a touchdown, pulling in a 27-yard pass from Joe Burrow in the third quarter. After struggling throughout the first two games of the postseason, Higgins finally got it together. However, it wasn't enough, as the Bengals fell short of their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Overall, the 24-year-old had a fantastic season, amassing 74 receptions for a career-high 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns. Although Ja'Marr Chase will continue to take away targets from Higgins moving forward, he'll still be a highly coveted option in every fantasy draft heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Samaje Perine Jan 29 11:10pm ET
Samaje Perine

Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine finished with five carries for 22 yards in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. He also scored a touchdown, finding the end zone early in the fourth quarter, and had three catches for four yards. The 27-year-old looked better than Joe Mixon, who had eight attempts for a measly 19 yards. Perine arguably had the best season of his career, amassing 394 rushing yards and a career-high 38 catches for 287 yards for six total scores. At this rate, he's done enough to earn a more prominent role regardless of where he lands next season. However, if he remains in Cincinnati, he could see enough touches throughout the year to severely jeopardize Mixon's fantasy potential.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Jan 29 11:00pm ET
Joe Mixon

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was a non-factor in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The former sooner carried the ball only eight times, three more than Samaje Perine, and totaled just 19 yards while adding three catches for 15 yards. Mixon looked fantastic in the win over the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round. However, he didn't get anything going in the AFC Championship, ceding carries and a touchdown to Perine. Mixon finished the regular season with 210 carries for 814 yards. He also combined for nine touchdowns, seven less than the 2021-22 campaign. As a result, the 26-year-old will be hard to trust heading into next season, especially if Perine remains on the team. But even if Perine doesn't stay in Cincy, Mixon's fantasy stock may plummet throughout the offseason.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Jan 29 10:40pm ET
Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow couldn't lift his team to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The signal-caller threw 270 yards in the narrow AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, tossing one touchdown along with two interceptions. Burrow had trouble getting anything going early, as the Bengals offensive line couldn't stop the Chiefs defense from getting to their quarterback. However, even after the group got it together, the former LSU Tiger still fell short of his second AFC title. Burrow had a fantastic 2022-23 campaign, finishing the regular season with 4,475 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 12 picks while completing 68.3% of his throws. Fortunately, barring a trade, he'll have Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon back at his disposal. As a result, Burrow will be one of the first fantasy quarterbacks off draft boards heading into the new year.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 29 8:43pm ET
Tyler Boyd

Updating a previous report, Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (thigh) is questionable to return to the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs after exiting the game in the first half due to a thigh injury.

From TheHuddle

Arik Armstead Jan 29 8:30pm ET
Arik Armstead

The San Francisco 49ers defensive unit allowed 31 points to the Philadelphia Eagles in a blowout 7-31 NFC Championship Game loss. Dre Greenlaw led the 49ers with nine combined tackles, including two tackles for losses. Fred Warner added eight tackles and one tackle for a loss. Only Arik Armstead was able to come up with a sack, and no Niner forced a fumble or made an interception. As a result, the 49ers DST scored 0 points in the NFL.com standard scoring system.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 29 8:13pm ET
Tyler Boyd

Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (ankle) left the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half due to an injury, and he has been back on the field for just one play since suffering the ailment.

From TheHuddle

Robbie Gould Jan 29 7:50pm ET
Robbie Gould

San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould made the only extra point he attempted and did not try any field goals in the Niners' 7-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. After two-straight games making four field goals, this was an extremely disappointing game for Gould starters. The 49ers offense was already in for a tough game, but the going got tougher when quarterback Brock Purdy left the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. No. 4 quarterback Josh Johnson was then taken out and put in concussion protocol. Purdy returned but was severely hampered. Ultimately, the 49ers only gained 164 yards all game and never got into the red zone.

From RotoBaller

George Kittle Jan 29 7:30pm ET
George Kittle

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle caught three passes for 32 yards in the Niners' 7-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. The 29-year-old also took one carry for four yards. The Niners' passing game was impacted by injuries to both quarterbacks Brock Purdy (elbow) and Josh Johnson (concussion protocol). San Francisco only threw the ball 18 times all game, and Purdy only made two passes in the second half after Johnson left the game in the third quarter. Kittle will be one of the top tight ends taken in 2023 fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Kadarius Toney Jan 29 7:30pm ET
Kadarius Toney

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is questionable to return to the AFC Championship matchup with Cincinnati. Toney entered this contest with five catches for 36 yards, the most on the team this postseason. However, if he doesn't make it back on Sunday, he'll finish with one catch for nine yards. Of course, the Chiefs have plenty of options on the offensive end, so Patrick Mahomes won't be impacted.

From RotoBaller