And there were two.

The Los Angeles Rams.

The New England Patriots.

The last two in the 2018 National Football League’s version of “Survivor.” While the other 30 teams are at home after having their torches put out, they are the last two standing. They’ve out-witted the other 30 teams, they’ve outlasted the other 30. Sunday will be a chance to see who can out-survive the other.

Both the Rams and Patriots started their seasons like everyone else, with OTAs, the draft, mini-camp, preseason and a 17-week schedule where they both played 16 games. At the end of the day in Atlanta, one team will be holding the Lombardi Trophy again, sort of like Raftiki holding baby Simba in “The Lion King.” The other team? They will be picked apart like a Thanksgiving Turkey, second-guessed by everyone that can draw a breath.

This Sunday is not just any Sunday. This is Super Bowl Sunday. This is the Sunday that some of these players have been dreaming about since they were kids, playing pretend football in the backyard and hoping that their time will come. Their time is here. It’s the final game on the 2018 NFL schedule and when the clock strikes :00, the confetti flies around and the on-field interviews are taking place, it will come to an end. No more regular season football until September 5th. The winner? They get to take home the Lombardi Trophy and each player will take home $118,000, which comes out to $29,500 a quarter and they get to pick last in the upcoming draft. As for the losing team? No trophy, they get to pick 31st and each player will get $59,000 (or $14,750 per quarter).

What else is at stake, you ask?

With a New England victory…
•The Patriots will have captured their sixth Super Bowl championship, tied with Pittsburgh (six) for most in NFL history.
•New England will have won its 37th postseason game, surpassing Pittsburgh (36) for the most all-time.
•Head coach Bill Belichick joins George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches ever to win six NFL championships.
•Quarterback Tom Brady has now won six Super Bowls, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Haley (five) for the most of any player. His Rams counterpart Jared Goff was 7 years old when Brady won his first Lombardi.

With a Los Angeles win…
•The Rams will celebrate the second Super Bowl victory in the history of their franchise (SB XXXIV) and their first in Los Angeles.
•At age 33, head coach Sean McVay becomes the youngest coach ever to win the Super Bowl. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin held the previous mark at age 36.
•Quarterback Jared Goff becomes the first quarterback selected number 1 overall to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory within his first three seasons.

Belichick and Brady will be making their ninth Super Bowl appearance together, the most NFL title games for any head coach and starting quarterback duo in league history. Belichick and Brady have won five Super Bowls together, the most by a head coach and starting quarterback combination.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, who turns 33 years and 10 days old on Super Bowl Sunday, is the youngest head coach to lead his team to the Super Bowl. In each of the past two seasons under McVay, the Rams have ranked first or second in points per game. His counterpart on the other side of the field? Bill Belichick is 66 and turns 67 in April.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, is the first quarterback selected number 1 overall to reach the Super Bowl within his first three seasons. Four quarterbacks (Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and John Elway, Drew Bledsoe and Eli Manning) each reached the Super Bowl in their fourth season.

Brady vs. Goff. Two QBs with a huge age difference led their teams to this point in time. Both clubs won their divisions, both were two seeds in their respective conferences and both won their last games on the road in overtime and both teams beat the top seeds. The bigger picture? Brady won his first Super Bowl the last time the two met in the post season. When Sunday’s game kicks off, Brady will be 42 years old, while Goff is 25 (Goff was seven years old when the Brady-Bilichick duo won their first Lombardi).

The Rams fought their way back against New Orleans in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome and came away with a 26-23 overtime win over Drew Brees and the Saints. Los Angeles trailed 13-10 at the half after the Saints rushed out to a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter as the Saints used a pair of Wil Lutz field goals and a Brees TD pass to TE Garrett Griffin to open the scoring in the contest. Los Angeles shut out the Saints in the second quarter, thanks to a 6-yard TD run by Todd Gurley III and a Greg Zuerlein field goal to tally their first points of the game. New Orleans would push the lead back to 10 with 8:34 left in the third when backup QB Taysom Hill and Brees connected on a 2-yard toss before the Rams would even things up when TE Tyler Higbee and Goff connected with 3:06 left in the third and Zuerlin booted a 24-yard field goal with 5:03 left in the contest.

New Orleans was not going quietly and got the ball back with 5:03 left in regulation and started the drive they thought would give them the win and there was some controversy in that drive when Saints WR Michael Thomas and Rams CB Michael Roby-Coleman collided on a pass attempt that many Saints fans and players thought was pass interference but was not called and the pass was ruled incomplete, much to the anger of Saints fans and head coach Sean Payton. (Roby-Coleman was eventually fined by the league for the helmet to helmet hit). The Saints had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Lutz with 1:41 left before the Rams stormed back with 15 seconds left in regulation to re-tie the contest and send the contest into the extra period after Brees knelt the ball down. New Orleans would win the toss in the overtime and got the ball first in the overtime and kept the ball for only four plays, getting as close as their own 36-yard line when Brees was picked off by S John Johnson II inside Saints territory. The Rams wasted very little time or distance, using a 5-play, 15-yard drive that took 2:12 for them to set up a 57-yard field goal try. After the Saints burned a timeout to ice the kicker, Zeurlein connected on that 57-yard try to send the Rams into the Super Bowl.

The Rams outrushed New Orleans 77-48 and Goff threw for 297 yards and a TD with an interception and a sack, while Rams WR Brandon Cooks burned his former team for 107 yards on seven catches. Brees threw for 249 yards with the two TD tosses, while being sacked twice and throwing the interception that ended New Orleans’ hopes of coming to Atlanta. Los Angeles went 6 of 16 on third down (they were 1 for 1 on fourth down) and ruled the clock as they kept the ball for 32:36 (including the overtime), while the Saints went 6 for 14 on third down, keeping the ball for 30:41.

New England took a 14-0 lead with them to the intermission against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead in the AFC Championship game, only to see the Chiefs rally in the final 15 minutes of play and Brady and the Patriots would need overtime to take the 37-31 win on the road. Rookie RB Sony Michel and WR Phillip Dorsett would open the scoring for New England; Michel scoring on a 1-yard run early in the first quarter and Dorsett catching a 29-yard pass from Brady to take the 14-point lead at the break. Kansas City would respond in the third quarter as Mahomes and TE Travis Kelce connected on a 12-yard TD toss in the third to end New England’s bid for a shutout before Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski would push the lead back to 10 with a 47-yard field goal late in the quarter.

The Chiefs would then go to work in the final quarter of regulation, using a pair of Damien Williams TD runs to eventually take a 21-17 lead with 7:45 left in the contest. That lead would not last long as Michel scored on a 10-yard romp with 3:32 left. Kansas City then responded and took the lead back with 2:03 left when Williams scored from two yards out. The Chiefs’ lead did not last very long as New England’s Rex Burkhead gave his team a 31-28 lead back with 39 seconds left. Kansas City roared back again with 8 seconds left in regulation as Harrison Butker connected on a 39 yard field goal to tie things up at 31-31.

The Butker field goal would be the last time the Chiefs would see the ball as New England would win the coin toss in overtime and played ball control in the extra period, using a 13-play, 75-yard drive that used 4:52 of clock and sent Chiefs fans home in a less than good mood when Burkhead gave his team the win, scoring from two yards out to take the win. Michel rushed for 113 yards with the two TDs as the Patriots outrushed Kansas City 176-41. Brady threw for 348 yards with the TD toss and one interception (he was not sacked), while Mahomes threw for 295 yards with three TDs and four sacks but no interceptions. Kansas City, who saw their hopes dashed when DE Dee Ford lined up in the neutral zone, erasing a potential Brady interception in the final quarter, went 4 for 9 on third down and kept the ball for 20:53, while New England ruled the clock and kept the ball for 43:59 (including the 4:52 in overtime), while going 13 of 19 on third down, 1 for 2 on fourth down.

They met in Foxoboro in the 2016 season in week 13 and the Patriots were 26-10 winners at Gillette Stadium. New England scored their first 17 points of the contest uncontested before the Rams rallied in the final 30 minutes of play, outscoring New England 10-9. The Rams were held to 36 rushing yards, while New England tallied 133, with LeGarrett Blount leading the way with 88 yards and a rushing TD, while Brady threw for 269 yards without a sack or interception (Goff threw for 161 yards with a pair of interceptions and four sacks; both Goff and Brady each had a TD pass). The Rams were a dismal 1 of 12 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and they would keep the ball for 22:03, while New England ruled the clock and kept the ball for 37:57, while going 4 of 16 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down.

In the week 13 contest in Foxboro, the Pats covered the 13 1/2-point spread, winning by 16 but both clubs missed the 44 1/2 over/under as they combined for 36 points.

The Rams and Patriots met once in post-season play and that was in Super Bowl XXXVI, which New England won in the final seconds 20-17 in New Orleans, when the Rams were in St. Louis. That contest was the start of the Brady-Bill Belichick era as the Rams, who were in St. Louis, won the Lombardi Trophy the year before in Atlanta. New England erased a 3-0 first quarter deficit and took a 14-3 lead with them to the break in the Big Easy. The Pats then added an Adam Vinatieri field goal in the third quarter to lead by 14 before the Rams scored a pair of TDs in the fourth, one with Kurt Warner using his legs to score from two yards out, then Warner used his arm, connecting with WR Ricky Proehl with 90 seconds left in regulation. New England would use all of the 90 seconds that was left and made their way down the field, using a 9-play, 53-yard drive that ended with Vinatieri connecting on a 48-yard field goal as time expired. In picking up his first Super Bowl win, Brady threw for 145 yards and a TD with a sack but no interceptions, while Warner threw for 365 yards and the game-tying TD with three sacks and a pair of interceptions. New England outrushed the Rams 133-90 and went 2 for 11 on third down and kept the ball for 26:30 (including the final 90 seconds of the contest), while the Rams were 5 for 13 on third down and kept the ball for 33:30.

Yes, this is the last game of the year. When next Sunday rolls around, most of America will be forced to wait for baseball and watch golf, basketball or those gosh-awful Lifetime movies on Sunday. It’s also the last Sunday of “THE DRILL” until September. With that…. (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 58 last June and dates a 43-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”)

New England, according to the boys and girls in Vegas, are favored by 2 1/2 with a 56 1/2 over/under. Both numbers make a lot of sense. For the winners, they get to go to Disney World and the Lombardi Trophy. As for the loser? Let’s just say that sports talk shows will be second-guessing them over and over and over until the draft. For the championship week, we went 1-1 and for the season, we are now 150-112. The end is nigh for the 2018 season. No more NFL until pre-season. It’s time to pick a winner, Jimmy, to paraphrase Robert Redford from “The Natural.” Jimmy’s from LA and he’s going with the Rams. We are too. Rams win and cover the 2 1/2.

Broadcast Information – 6:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely, Gene Steratore; WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Mike Holmgren, Tony Boselli, Ed Werder; SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 82 (New England), 83 (Los Angeles Rams); XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (New England), 225 (Los Angeles Rams)

Referee: John Parry

Injury Report

New England – New England reports no injuries

Los Angeles Rams – Los Angeles Rams report no injuries

Weather: Game indoors; if roof is open, partly cloudy and 55 degrees.

Broadcast Information and Injury Report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel. (Note: Weather information is based on kickoff local time)

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Three-time Grammy Award-winning multiplatinum band Maroon 5 will take center stage at the PEPSI SUPER BOWL LIII HALFTIME SHOW on CBS at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3, 2019, the group and the National Football League confirmed. Maroon 5 will feature a slate of guest artists including Grammy-nominated rapper Travis Scott and Atlanta native Big Boi bringing together the broadest range of musical genres ever seen on the Super Bowl stage.

Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi join an esteemed list of recent halftime acts including Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Missy Elliott, Lenny Kravitz, Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, The Who, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2 and many more.

The Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show is the most-watched musical event of the year. Super Bowl LIII and the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show will be broadcast by CBS from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Super Bowl LIII marks Pepsi’s seventh year as title sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and 17th year as an NFL partner. Pepsi and the NFL have teamed up again to provide fans with a halftime experience worthy of pop-culture’s biggest stage.

The PEPSI SUPER BOWL LIII HALFTIME SHOW is an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner and directed by Hamish Hamilton.

For more information about Super Bowl LIII, visit SuperBowl.com.

About Maroon 5: Maroon 5 stands out as not only one of pop music’s most enduring artists, but also one of the 21st century’s biggest acts. To date, the universally renowned Los Angeles band have achieved three GRAMMY® Awards and sold over 53 million albums, 48 million singles worldwide and earned gold and platinum certifications in more than 35 countries. The band won over fans and critics alike with the hybrid rock/R&B sound they introduced on their debut album, Songs About Jane and their double platinum album, It Won’t be Soon Before Long. Maroon 5 went on to release studio albums, Hands All Over, which featured the anthemic “Moves Like Jagger,” and Overexposed. The band’s fifth studio album, V, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and featured the #1 hit singles “Maps,” “Animals” and “Sugar,” helping the band set a record for the most #1’s by a group in the Top 40 chart’s 20-year history, with 9 in total. The music video for the album’s GRAMMY- nominated single “Sugar” has notably logged a record setting 2+ billion views to date.

Maroon 5 released their 6th studio album, Red Pill Blues, in late 2017 via 222/ Interscope. The album features the global hit single “Girls Like You” ft. Cardi B, which reached #1 at Top 40, #1 at Adult Pop, #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks. The track also claimed the #1 position on iTunes and Spotify, all while accumulating over 626 million Spotify streams and over 1.7 billion YouTube/ VEVO views. The single has gone on to become the longest-running song on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 and is notably the most-watched video on VEVO in 2018. The band recently finished 2018 as the biggest act on U.S. radio (according to Nielsen Music). The group’s songs amassed 8.58 billion audience impressions across all monitored radio stations, which included 1.95 million plays of Maroon 5’s music.

About Travis Scott: Grammy-nominated global superstar Travis Scott has established himself as a leading force in the music world. His third full-length album ASTROWORLD – released August 3, 2018 via Cactus Jack Records/Epic Records – debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, scored the second-largest debut of 2018 and has since certified platinum by the RIAA. The critically acclaimed album also yielded his first Billboard Hot 100 #1 single with “SICKO MODE,” and garnered a total of three Grammy nominations: Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. ASTROWORLD followed the 2016 release of platinum-certified, Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight and earned his first #1 album. Travis’ platinum-certified debut album, Rodeo was released in 2015 and features the Billboard Hot 100 hit single “Antidote.” Hailing from Missouri City, TX, Travis has performed on Saturday Night Live, Ellen, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and many more. He has appeared on the cover of prestigious publications such as Rolling Stone, GQ, GQ Style, Billboard, XXL and The FADER. Additionally, Travis is a household name in the fashion world where his influence spans from launch collaborations with YSL, Helmut Lang, Nike and Ksubi Denim to starring in notable campaigns for Alexander Wang, and Ricardo Tisci among other numerous top designers. Travis will embark on the second North American leg of his ASTROWORLD Tour this month. The immense SOLD OUT world arena tour began November 2018 and features a roller coaster hoisted in the air running the length crowd, a ferris wheel, fireworks, and pyrotechnics and is as Rolling Stone describes, “the greatest show on earth.”

About Big Boi: Atlanta indisputably set the pace for modern hip-hop. However, Big Boi set the pace for Atlanta, and by proxy, the culture at large. If the genre of hip-hop ever gets its own “Rap Mount Rushmore,” a legacy as the region’s foremost wordsmith, funkiest gentleman, and resident ATLien certainly guarantees a place for the diamond selling artist, rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor, philanthropist born Antwan André Patton. Big made history as the preeminent spitter of the Dungeon Family and one-half of OutKast. The legendary duo sold 25 million albums and garnered seven GRAMMY® Awards, becoming the first and only hip-hop artist in history to win the GRAMMY® for “Album of the Year” upon release of their 2003 RIAA Diamond-certified Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Big Boi made his proper introduction as a solo artist in 2010 with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. A modern classic, it captured #3 on theBillboard Top 200 and landed on Pitchfork’s “100 Best Albums of the Decade ‘So Far’.” Following a succession of high-profile album releases, Big Boi released his latest album  Boomiverse in 2017. The smash single “All Night” sound tracked a high-profile Apple Animoji commercial, blew up radio, and clocked 40 million streams within a year. The song also hit the Top 30 on the pop chart and Top 10 at Rhythmic.

 

The NFL and USAA, the Official NFL Salute to Service Partner, announced Atlanta Falcons offensive guard Ben Garland and Detroit Lions Legend Eric Hipple as finalists for the eighth annual Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.

Garland and Hipple were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. The Salute to Service Award recipient will be recognized at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, on CBS.

USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in the award recipient’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the award recipient’s military charity of choice. The award recipient will receive a specially designed military challenge coin, recognizing their commitment to the military. In what has become a long-standing tradition, challenge coins are presented to members of the military community to encourage excellence, boost morale or to recognize a fellow brother- or sister-in-arms.

“Each year since we created ‘Salute to Service’ with the NFL in 2011, we’ve recognized inspiring leaders within the NFL community that honor and serve our military, veterans and their families,”Vice Admiral (Retired) John Bird, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “Ben Garland, a member of our military with a demonstrated history of supporting his fellow service members and Eric Hipple, who cares for the mental health and well-being of our military, are both worthy finalists for the ‘Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.”

In October 2018, 32 NFL clubs nominated coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel, who best demonstrated support for the military community. These nominees were publicly announced in November and the submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges, including last year’s award recipient, former Atlanta Falcon and current New York Jets wide receiver Andre Roberts. Nominees’ credentials are evaluated based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.

The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:
•VICE ADMIRAL JOHN BIRD (Retired), U.S. Navy veteran, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs
•CHAD HENNINGS, Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
•ANDRE ROBERTS, New York Jet’s wide receiver and 2017 Salute to Service Award recipient
•JIM MORA, SR., Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
•VINCENT JACKSON, Former NFL player and 2015 Salute to Service Award recipient
•LENNY BANDY, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security

Below is the list of previous Salute to Service Award recipients. The award is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community.

YEAR RECIPIENT TEAM
2017 Andre Roberts Atlanta Falcons
2016 Dan Quinn (Head Coach) Atlanta Falcons
2015 Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014 Jared Allen Chicago Bears
2013 John Harbaugh (Head Coach) Baltimore Ravens
2012 Charles Tillman Chicago Bears
2011 K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr. (Late Owner) Tennessee Titans

Below is an overview on the two finalists. To learn more about all 32 team nominees, please visit http://www.nfl.com/salute.

BEN GARLAND (Atlanta): The definition of Ben Garland can be considered many things: Offensive Lineman, Defensive Lineman, Atlanta Falcons Man of the Year, Captain in the Colorado Air National Guard or the absolute best at giving back to our nation’s heroes and their families. “My family has a long, proud history of service in the Armed Forces, so I was raised understanding what the families of loved ones go through. On top of that, I was able to serve myself. During my service, I met the most incredible people; brave, selfless, intelligent athletic hardworking men and women of character. Over the years, service members I have been very close with have been injured, divorced, committed suicide, suffered from PTSD, lost limbs and even made the ultimate sacrifice overseas. Like any family member, you support each other through all times, so I want to give back as much as I can to fellow service members’, says Garland. In this year alone, Ben has traveled on two USO tours; the first to Italy and Germany and the second to Iraq and Kuwait. Ben seeks out any opportunity that he can to visit with military, shake their hands and say thank you.

When Ben is back stateside, he is extremely involved and focused on helping veterans get back on their feet after service and helping to raise awareness for PTSD. Earlier this year, he participated in the Armed Forces Mission’s Georgia LOSS Walk at Patriot Park in Fayetteville, Georgia. Ben walked alongside veterans, service members and families in honor of “Turning the Tide on Veteran Suicide”. Each year that Ben has been with the Atlanta Falcons he has participated in the annual Fishing with the Falcons event. This year, Ben traveled to Orange Beach, Alabama to go on a chartered fishing trip with wounded veterans.

In his efforts for veteran suicide prevention and PTSD, Ben has created substantial relationships with a number of military non-profits that he works with year-round including; Merging Vets and Players, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, Shepherd Center SHARE Initiative and TAPS. Ben will be wearing customized cleats in Week 13 for SHARE Military Initiative (Shepherd Center) and Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. Ben works with the Pigskin Patriots to help raise funds and donate time for camps for military children and he works closely with Children of the Fallen Patriots Foundation on granting college scholarship funds.

In addition to the hours he consistently gives to veterans and military families; he, as current member of our military, also finds time to give back to those who currently serve. He donates game tickets each week to service members, visits the Air Force Academy at least once a year to speak to the current students, works with Georgia Tech ROTC to inspire young officers and meets with local young officers to mentor them. In lieu of his constant efforts with our nation’s military, Ben still manages to find time to fulfill his duties as a Captain in the Colorado Air National Guard; which he was just recently selected to become a Major.

ERIC HIPPLE (Detroit): Eric Hipple is a former NFL quarterback whose ten-year career was spent with the Detroit Lions. Hipple was born in Lubbock, Texas and raised in Southern California. Eric graduated from Utah State University with a degree in Business Administration and was drafted by the Detroit Lions. Hipple’s accomplishments include two playoff bids, a Divisional Championship, and the Detroit Lion’s most valuable player award for the ’81 season. He is currently ranked sixth in career passing yards for Detroit. Since his 15-year-old son Jeff’s suicide, Hipple has devoted his life to building awareness and breaking down the stigma surrounding depressive illnesses. Hipple has received numerous prestigious awards such as, the presidential citation at the American Psychological Association’s 2006 Annual Convention for his six years of national community-based work combating adolescent depression and suicide prevention, the 2008 Life Saver Achievement award given by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Detroit Lions 2010 Courage House award, and the Neubacher Award in 2015 from the University of Michigan for his work with stigma associated with disabilities. Hipple’s message of resilience has provided mental fitness awareness to professional groups, military, law enforcement, schools, communities.

In conjunction with NAVY U.S. Fleet Forces, Hipple has provided workshops on suicide and destructive behavior prevention during the last 10 years by focusing on mental fitness. His book “Real Men Do Cry” received a publisher Presidential Award. After retiring from University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Depression Center, where he spent eleven years in outreach, Hipple currently serves as Outreach Specialist for Eisenhower Center’s “After The Impact” program, a nuero-behavioral residential treatment facility serving military veterans and former NFL players. Eric’s commitment to helping others find a quality in life is demonstrated through work with several non-profits. These suicide prevention workshops for USFF (U.S. Fleet Forces) are included on Navy bases and Naval Air stations on the East Coast, Europe and the Middle East.

In 2007, Eric was involved with the planning process of the ‘Real Warrior Campaign’ (Army suicide prevention) that aired at Super Bowl Radio Row and organized PSA’s with players supporting service members. In 2008, Eric helped organize NFL Legends to speak at Army bases throughout Texas, New York, Georgia and Mississippi during the NFL playoffs with the NFLPA and for the Army ‘Real Warrior Campaign’ presentations that took place at Okinawa Marine base and was a presentation that talked through suicide prevention. Eric has lead a group of eight (8) former NFL players that stayed 3 days on the Aircraft Carrier USS George Bush during deployment in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 and has helped with ‘Destructive Behavior’ prevention workshops for Pac Fleet Naval bases, Naval air stations and submarine bases on the West coast, Hawaii, Korea and Japan.

Eric Hipple has been part of the 2016 Mental Fitness training at the Army National Training Center and for the 2017-2018 suicide prevention workshops for the Air Force at Minot Air Base and at the nuclear missile launch facilities from 2012-current. Eric Hipple organized the ‘After the Impact’ treatment program at Eisenhower Center that placed veterans and NFL legends together in a 30-day inpatient stay and hosted mental fitness presentations at Warren Armory, Battle Creek Armory, Selfridge Air Base, Army Air Station Saginaw VA presentation on suicide. Eric’s work continues to impact the military community.

ABOUT USAA: The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to more than 12.7 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

The National Football League announced Monday that Tim McGraw will headline the Super Bowl LIII pregame festivities in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3. McGraw’s His performance will take place at the NFL Tailgate Party with his new single “Thought About You” televised live on CBS’s Super Bowl LIII Pregame Show, THE SUPER BOWL TODAY.

Tim McGraw has sold more than 50 million records worldwide and dominated the charts with 43 worldwide number 1 singles. He’s won 3 Grammy Awards, 16 Academy of Country Music Awards, 14 Country Music Association Awards, His iconic career achievements include being named BDS Radio’s Most Played Artist of the Decade for ALL music genres and having the Most Played Song of the Decade for ALL music genres. He is the most played country artist since his debut in 1992, with two singles spending more than 10 weeks at number 1. His career-long tour successes include the record-setting “Soul2Soul The World Tour 2017” with his wife, Faith Hill. McGraw starred in and narrated the hit movie “The Shack” and his other movie credits include “Friday Night Lights” and “The Blind Side.”

Earlier in the day Aloe Blacc will perform at the NFL Tailgate Party and will be joined onstage by Atlanta’s very own David Walker and High Praise for a live televised performance on THE SUPER BOWL TODAY on CBS.

Aloe Blacc released his solo debut Shine Through in 2006 and sophomore album Good Things in 2010. Boosted by the breakout success of “I Need a Dollar” (which was selected as the theme song to HBO’s How To Make it In America), Good Things reached gold status in countries around the world and paved the way for his signing to XIX Recordings/Interscope Records in 2012. Made in collaboration with groundbreaking producers like Pharrell Williams, Lift Your Spirit dropped on New Year’s Day in 2014, debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Album.

For updates on Super Bowl LIII festivities, fans may visit SuperBowl.com or follow @SuperBowl on Twitter.

Seven-time Grammy Award-winner and “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LIII pregame festivities at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, February 3, the NFL and CBS announced today. The performance will be televised live on CBS prior to kickoff.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” Knight told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. “The NFL recently announced their new social justice platform Inspire Change and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year.”

Gladys Knight has enjoyed #1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R&B and Adult Contemporary and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded two number-one Billboard Hot 100 singles (“Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For”), eleven number-one R&B singles and six number-one R&B albums. She has won seven Grammy Awards and is an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with The Pips. Fall of 2015 marked the release of Knight’s first mainstream dance record, “Just A Little” in nearly twenty years. The song serves as lead single from her twelfth studio album that she is currently on. The year of 2011 was a year of much recognition as Knight was both honoring and being honored, first at a Michael Jackson tribute concert and then at the 2011 Soul Train Awards.

Gladys Knight joins the ranks of many great performers who have sung the Super Bowl National Anthem including: Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Mariah Carey, Cher, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Wynton Marsalis, Idina Menzel, Aaron Neville, P!NK, Jordin Sparks, Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Vanessa Williams and many more. (A complete list of National Anthem performers from past Super Bowls is listed below.)

In addition, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), performer and deaf activist Aarron Loggins will sign in American Sign Language both the National Anthem and “America The Beautiful”.

The pregame and halftime shows are an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner.

SUPER BOWL NATIONAL ANTHEM PERFORMERS

Super Bowl – Performer
Super Bowl I – Universities of Arizona and Michigan Bands
Super Bowl II – Grambling University Band
Super Bowl III – Anita Bryant (Pledge of Allegiance by Apollo Astronauts)
Super Bowl IV – Al Hirt (Pledge of Allegiance by Astronauts)
Super Bowl V – Tommy Loy (trumpeter)
Super Bowl VI – U.S. Air Force Academy Chorale
Super Bowl VII – Andy Williams and Little Angels of Holy Angels Church (Chicago) Pledge of Allegiance by Apollo 17 crew
Super Bowl VIII – Charlie Pride
Super Bowl IX – Grambling University Band with Mardi Gras Chorus
Super Bowl X – Tom Sullivan
Super Bowl XI  Vicki Carr (America the Beautiful)
Super Bowl XII – Phyllis Kelly of Northeast Louisiana State University
Super Bowl XIII – Colgate University Thirteen
Super Bowl XIV – Cheryl Ladd
Super Bowl XV – Helen O’Connell
Super Bowl XVI – Diana Ross
Super Bowl XVII – Leslie Easterbrook
Super Bowl XVIII – Barry Manilow
Super Bowl XIX – Children’s Choir of San Francisco
Super Bowl XXIV – Aaron Neville
Super Bowl XXV – Whitney HoustonSuper Bowl XX Wynton Marsalis
Super Bowl XXI – Neil Diamond
Super Bowl XXII – Herb Alpert
Super Bowl XXIII – Billy Joel
Super Bowl XXVI – Harry Connick, Jr. (Signed by Lori Hilary)
Super Bowl XXVII – Garth Brooks (Signed by Marlee Matlin)
Super Bowl XXVIII – Natalie Cole with Atlanta University Center Chorus (Signed by Courtney Keel Foley)
Super Bowl XXIX – Kathie Lee Gifford (Signed by Heather Whitestone)
Super Bowl XXX – Vanessa Williams (Signed by Mary Kim Titla)
Super Bowl XXXI – Luther Vandross (Signed by Erika Schwarz)
Super Bowl XXXII – Jewel (Signed by Phyllis Frelich)
Super Bowl XXXIII – Cher (Signed by Speaking Hands)
Super Bowl XXXIV – Faith Hill (Signed by Briarlake Elementary School Signing Choir)
Super Bowl XXXV – Backstreet Boys (Signed by Tom Cooney); “America The Beautiful” performed by Ray Charles
Super Bowl XXXVI – Mariah Carey (Signed by Joe Narcisse); “America The Beautiful” performed by Mary J. Blige and Marc Anthony
Super Bowl XXXVII – Dixie Chicks (Signed by Janet Maxwell); “God Bless America” performed by Celine Dion
Super Bowl XXXVIII – Beyoncé Knowles (Signed by Suzanna Christy)
Super Bowl XXXIX – More than 100 representatives from the four branches of the military (Signed by Wesley Tallent)
Super Bowl XL – Aaron Neville and Dr. John with Aretha Franklin and Detroit based 150-member choir (Signed by Angela LaGuardia of Michigan School for Deaf).
Super Bowl XLI – Billy Joel (Signed by Marlee Matlin and Jason Hay-Southwell)
Super Bowl XLII – Jordin Sparks (Signed by A Dreamer)
Super Bowl XLIII – Jennifer Hudson (Signed by Kristen Santos)
Super Bowl XLIV – Carrie Underwood (Signed by Kinesha Battles)
Super Bowl XLV – Christina Aguilera (Signed by Candice Villesca)
Super Bowl XLVI – Kelly Clarkson (Signed by Rachel Mazique)
Super Bowl XLVII – Alicia Keys (Signed by John Maucere)
Super Bowl XLVIII – Renée Fleming (Signed by Amber Zion)
Super Bowl XLIX – Idina Menzel (Signed by Treshelle Edmond)
Super Bowl 50 – Lady Gaga (Signed by Marlee Matlin)
Super Bowl LI – Luke Bryan (Signed by Kriston Pumphrey)
Super Bowl LII – P!NK (Signed by Alexandria Wailes)
Super Bowl LIII – Gladys Knight (Signed by Aarron Loggins)

ABOUT GLADYS KNIGHT: Gladys Knight’s career started when at 7 years old she came to prominence on Ted Mack’s The Original Amateur Hour TV show in 1952. Still performing over six decades in an ever-changing industry, she provides inspiration to those in and out of the arts both on and off the stage. Few have matched her unassailable artistry. The seven-time Grammy winner has had #1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R & B and Adult Contemporary while excelling in film, television and live performances. She has won the NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Gospel Album” and recorded over 38 albums over her career including four solo albums over the past decade. In addition to her musical endeavors and performing accomplishments, Gladys was honored in 2015 when a portion of Atlanta’s State Route 9 from Peachtree Street to 14th Street was named Gladys Knight Highway. In 2017, she and her husband, William McDowell, founded the Reynolds High School Community Foundation to benefit the renovation of the former high school into a community center for the Canton, North Carolina community.

ABOUT AARRON LOGGINS: Aarron Loggins is an accomplished dancer, performer, advocate and actor. He is currently performing on series including The C-Word and Shock Nation, and can be seen in a short film, Warriors of the Red Ribbon. He was the Mister Deaf International of 2014 and was profiled on Fashion News Live. He has danced with performance groups as the Wild Zappers and Da Jump Back, and has performed with the National Theater of the Deaf. In addition, he has acted in several theater productions including Who’s Tommy, and Sense-Able. His talent includes creating visually compelling American Sign Language (ASL) performances of music.

Sunday Broadcast Information (All times Eastern)

NFC – Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans, 3:05 p.m. on FOX: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews (Field reporter), Chris Myers (Field reporter); WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Harlan, Kurt Warner, Ed Werder; SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 83 (Los Angeles Rams), 82 (New Orleans); XM: 88 (WW1), 83 (Los Angeles Rams), 82 (New Orleans)

AFC – New England at Kansas City, 6:40 p.m. on CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely, Gene Steratore; WESTWOOD ONE: Kevin Kugler, Tony Boselli, Ross Tucker; SIRIUS: 88 (WW1), 82 (New England ), 83 (Kansas City); XM: 88 (WW1), 226 (New England ), 225 (Kansas City)

Sunday Officials
NFC – Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans, 3:05 p.m.: Bill Vinovich
AFC – New England at Kansas City, 6:40 p.m.: Clete Blakeman

Sunday’s Odds (Home teams listed in CAPS)

Sunday’s Games
Favorite         Spread   Underdog                 O/U
NEW ORLEANS      – 3 1/2  Los Angeles Rams         57 1/2
KANSAS CITY      – 3      New England              56
Sunday’s Injury Report

NFC – Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans, 3:05 p.m.

Los Angeles Rams – Los Angeles Rams report no injuries

New Orleans
OUT: WR Keith Kirkwood (Calf)
QUESTIONABLE: TE Ben Watson (Illness)

AFC – New England at Kansas City, 6:40 p.m.

New England – New England reports no injuries
OUT: LB Dorian O’Daniel (Ankle)

Sunday Weather
NFC – Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans, 3:05 p.m.: Game indoors
AFC – New England at Kansas City, 6:40 p.m.: Cloudy and 26 degrees

Broadcast Information and Injury Report courtesy the National Football League, odds courtesy Don Best, weather information courtesy The Weather Channel. (Note: Weather information is based on kickoff local time)

And then there were four.

It’s the NFL’s Final Four. The last four teams standing before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in two weeks. These are the survivors and at the end of the day, there will be two teams making their way toward the Big Peach, while the other two teams will be clearing out their lockers come Monday. While the other 28 teams are getting ready for the Senior Bowl, the 2019 NFL draft and OTA’s, the remaining four teams are playing a meaningful football game and these games are important.

The formula stays pretty much the same and it’s so easy, even a five-year old gets it.

You win… you get to go to Atlanta.

Lose… your next game is next year.

32 teams started the year fighting for the Lombardi Trophy, fighting heat, bugs, sweat, sleeping in dorms for the first time since college, reading playbooks that make War and Peace look like the Sunday funnies. Four pre-seaason games, 16 regular season games and the postseason. All that comes to an end in two weeks. When Super Bowl LIII comes to an end in Atlanta, someone’s going to be holding the Lombardi Trophy and yelling into a camera “I’m going to Disney World!” The losers? They’re going to be second-guessed and picked apart like a turkey at Thanksgiving the entire off-season. Second meetings are all about revenge for the losers and a chance for the winners to make a statement.

What’s at stake, you ask? Trophies and cash, for openers, as well as a chance to go to Atlanta. The AFC winner will be the American Football Conference Championship and the Lamar Hunt Trophy, while the NFC winner will be the proud owners of the George Halas Trophy. Each player will be paid $54,000 (which breaks down to $13,500 a quarter) for their participation in the championship games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

HIGH OCTANE OFFENSES: On Championship Sunday, the Super Bowl LIII participants will be decided. In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams take on New Orleans at 3:05 p.m. on FOX, while New England travels to Arrowhead Stadium to face Kansas City at 6:40 p.m. on CBS in the AFC. The Conference Championships feature the four highest-scoring teams from the regular season for the first time in the Super Bowl era.

With victories by the Rams and Chiefs on Sunday, the Super Bowl would feature the two highest-scoring teams from the regular season for the fifth time since 1970 and the first time since 1997.

The Super Bowls featuring the two highest-scoring teams from the regular season since 1970:

SEASON: NO. 1 OFFENSE – NO. 2 OFFENSE (SUPER BOWL)
1997: Denver – Green Bay (XXXII)
1996: Green Bay – New England (XXXI)
1991: Washington – Buffalo (XXVI)
1984: Miami – San Francisco (XIX)

THE PATRIOT WAY: The New England Patriots have reached the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons. With a win against Kansas City on Sunday, the Patriots would join the Buffalo Bills (1990-93) and Miami Dolphins (1971-73) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls.

The teams to appear in at least three consecutive Super Bowls in the Super Bowl era:

TEAM (SEASONS / CONSECUTIVE SUPER BOWLS; SUPER BOWLS)
Buffalo (1990-93 / 4; XXV-XXVIII)
Miami (1971-73 / 3; VI-VIII)
New England (2016-17 / 2; LI-LII)*
*Active streak

HIGH SEED ADVANTAGE: With victories by top seeds Kansas City (AFC) and New Orleans (NFC) on Sunday, it would mark the 14th time since the NFL began seeding teams in 1975 that both top seeds faced off in the Super Bowl and the fifth time in the past six seasons (2013-15, 2017).

With wins on Sunday by both the Chiefs and Saints, it would mark the fifth time since 1975 that consecutive seasons have featured a Super Bowl matchup of the No. 1 seeds.

The Super Bowls featuring both No. 1 seeds in consecutive seasons since the NFL began seeding teams in 1975:

SEASONS: SUPER BOWLS
2013-15: XLVIII-50
1983-84: XVIII-XIX
1976-77: XI-XII​

With a win, the Chiefs can become the sixth consecutive number seed to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, surpassing five consecutive Super Bowls featuring the AFC’s number one seed (1987-1991) for the longest streak by the conference since 1975.

A victory by Kansas City would also mark the second time that either conference has had a streak of six consecutive seasons with a Super Bowl featuring their number one seed since 1975 (NFC – six consecutive seasons from 1981-86).

MAGICAL MAHOMES: Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 278 yards in his postseason debut last weekend and ranked second in passing yards (5,097) during the regular season.

With a Chiefs victory against New England, Mahomes would become the fourth quarterback to pass for at least 5,000 yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.

The quarterbacks to pass for at least 5,000 yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON: PASSING YARDS – SUPER BOWL)
Peyton Manning, Denver (2013: 5,477 – XLVIII)
Tom Brady, New England (2011: 5,235 – XLVI)
Dan Marino, Miami (1984: 5,084 – XIX)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

EASY BREESY: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 301 yards with two touchdowns in the Saints’ Divisional Playoffs win against Philadelphia.

With 300 passing yards on Sunday, Brees would tie Peyton Mannign (nine games) for the second-most playoff games with at least 300 passing yards.

The players with the most postseason games with at least 300 passing yards:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (POSTSEASON GAMES WITH 300+ PASS YARDS)
Tom Brady – New England (15)*
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (9)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (8)*
*Active in Conference Championships

GREAT GURLEY: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ Divisional round victory against Dallas.

Gurley, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his first two postseason appearances, can join Arian Foster as the only players in postseason history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of their first three playoff games.

The players with at least 100 rushing yards in each of their first three postseason games:

PLAYER, TEAM (DATES)(GAMES)
Arian Foster, Houston (1/7/12-1/5/13)(3)
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (1/6/18-1/12/19)(2)*
*Active streak

CATCH & RUN: New England running back JAMES WHITE had 15 receptions in the Divisional Playoffs, tied with Darren Sproles  (January 14, 2012 with New Orleans) for the most receptions by a player in a single postseason game in the Super Bowl era.

With at least 10 receptions on Sunday at Kansas City, White would become the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to record consecutive postseason games with at least 10 catches.

The players with consecutive postseason games with at least 10 receptions in the Super Bowl era:

PLAYER, TEAM (DATES)(CONSECUTIVE GAMES)
Tony Nathan, Miami (1/20/85-1/4/86)(2)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco (1/29/95-1/6-96)(2)^
Steve Smith, Sr., Carolina (1/8/06-1/15/06 (2)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Patriots running back Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s Divisional Playoffs victory. With one rushing touchdown on Sunday, Michel can tie the postseason record for the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie.

The rookies with the most rushing touchdowns in a single postseason:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASON – RUSH TDS)
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville (2017 – 4)
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (2000 – 4)
William Floyd, San Francisco (1994 – 4)
Tony Dorsett, Dallas (1997 – 4)^
Norm Standlee, Chicago (1941 – 4)
Sony Michel, New England (2018 – 3)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

As was the case for the entire playoffs and the Super Bowl, everything is going to be “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 58 last June and dates a 43-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”)

We struggled in the Wild Card round, going 1-3 but bounced back in the Divisional round, going 3-1, which for the year makes us 149-111. Both games are rematches from the 2018 regular season schedule (New England and Kansas City met in Foxboro in week six, the Rams and Saints met in New Orleans in week nine), which means that there are no secrets. One seeds playing at home against two seeds. Playoff football at its finest. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script.

Two games left in the post-season. We can’t say it enough but it bears repeating.

Win… you go to Atlanta in two weeks.

Lose… your next game is next year.

With that, here are the Sunday championship picks.

NFC – Los Angeles Rams (13-3, 2nd seed) at New Orleans (13-3, 1st seed), 3:05 p.m. on FOX. Championship Sunday gets underway in the Big Easy as the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints meet in a week nine rematch to decide who will be the NFC’s representative to Super Bowl LIII. Both teams were at home last week after their first round byes and both clubs had close wins at home.

The Rams, winners of the NFC West, held off a late Dallas rally last Saturday night in Los Angeles as they came away with the 30-22 win at the Coliseum in the NFC Divisional Game. Los Angeles erased a 7-3 deficit at the end of the first 15 minutes of play, took a 20-7 lead with them to the intermission and held off a late Cowboys rally in the second half that saw Dallas outscore the Rams 15-10 in the final 30 minutes of action. The Rams outrushed Dallas 273-50 and Rams’ running backs Todd Gurley (115 yards, TD) and C.J. Anderson (123 yards, 2 TDS) each tallied 100 yards for their team, while Jared Goff threw for 186 yards with no sacks (Dallas’ Dak Prescott threw for 266 yards with a TD to Amari Cooper with a sack; neither Goff or Presscott threw an interception). The Rams were 5 of 11 on third down (they were 2 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:13, while the Cowboys held on to the ball for 23:47, going 1 for 10 on third down, 3 for 4 on fourth down.

New Orleans trailed Philadelphia 14-0 early in their contest at the Mercedes Benz Superdome, then rallied to take a 20-14 win over the Eagles to advance to the championship round. The Saints proceeded to chip away at Philadelphia’s lead and trailed 14-10 at the half before scoring their final 10 points of the contest unchallenged, taking the lead for keeps with 1:40 left in the third when Drew Brees and WR Michael Thomas connected on a 2-yard TD pass, part of an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took 11:29 of playing time (17 minutes of actual time). Saints K Wil Lutz would add a 39-yard field goal early in the final 15 minutes of play to make the contest a 6-point affair. Philadelphia would later get the ball back in the final minutes of the game and got as close as the Saints’ 27-yard line when Nick Foles’ pass intended for Alshon Jeffery deflected off Jeffery’s hands and was intercepted by Marshawn Lattimore, The Saints then proceeded to run out the clock and take the win in front of the home folks. New Orleans outrushed Philadelphia 137-49, with Saints RB Alvin Kamara leading all rushers with 71 yards and Brees throwing for 301 yards with a pair of TDs to go with a pair of sacks and an interception, while Foles threw for 201 yards with a TD and two sacks. New Orleans went 8 for 15 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down (including a fake punt run by backup QB Taysom Hill) and kept the ball for 37:50, while the Eagles were 2 of 7 on third downs, holding on to the ball for 22:10.

In the week nine contest in the Big Easy, New Orleans broke a 35-35 fourth quarter tie in the Big Easy and took a 45-35 decision against the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday afternoon to end the Rams’ 8-game win streak. New Orleans led 35-14 going into the intermission before the Rams would pull themselves to within 11 as K Greg Zuerlein connected on a 56-yard field goal as time expired. Los Angeles then scored 10 third quarter points without a challenge, then opened the fourth quarter, tying things up at 35-35 thanks to a pair of TD passes from Jared Goff (one to RB Malcon Brown, the other to WR Cooper Kupp) and a Zuerlein field goal before New Orleans took control in the fourth quarter to take the lead back and for keeps. New Orleans outrushed the Rams 141-92 and Goff threw for 391 yards with three TDs an an interception, while Brees threw for 346 yards and four TDs, including a TD that drew the ire of the game officials when WR Michael Thomas pulled out a cell phone from underneath the goal post padding, paying homage to former Saints player Joe Horn (neither man was sacked, Goff threw the only interception in the contest). The Rams were 3 for 8 on third down conversions (they were 0 of 2 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 26:19, while the Saints ruled the clock and held on to the ball for 33:41, going 7 of 12 on third down, 2 of 2 on fourth down.

In the week nine contest in the Big Easy, the Saints were a 1-point favorite and they covered, winning by 10 and both teams took care of the 60 1/2 over/under, as both teams combined for 80 points. This time, the Saints are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under’s 56. There’s a good chance the over/under could be reached by halftime. The Saints want to prove that the first meeting was not a fluke while the Rams are seeking revenge. Revenge wins out here. Hooray for Hollywood! Rams pull the upset in the Big Easy and covers the 3 1/2.

AFC – New England (11-5, 2nd seed) at Kansas City (12-4, 1st seed), 6:40 p.m. on CBS. Tom Brady vs. Patrick Mahomes. They meet again, this time in central America. The Chiefs host the Patriots in a week six rematch at Arrownhead to become the AFC’s representative to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Both teams were winners at home in last week’s action.

New England led the Los Angeles Chargers 35-7 at the break at Foxboro and came out on top 41-28 at Gillette Stadium. New England broke a 7-7 tie early in the first quarter as rookie RB Sony Michel would give the Patriots the lead back for keeps, scoring the first of his three rushing TDs late in the period (Michel would then add a second rushing score before halftime). New England outrushed the Bolts 155-19, with Michel leading the eay with 129 yards and Brady threw for 343 yards and a TD without being sacked or picked off, while Philip Rivers threw for 331 yards and three TDs (two of the passes coming late in the contest) and was scked twice and picked off once. While New England was 50 percent on third down tries (the Pats were 7 of 14), they were perfect on fourth down tries, going 1 for 1 and held the ball for 38:20, while the Chargers kept the pigskin for 21:40, going 5 of 13 on third down, 1 for 1 on fourth down.

The Chiefs opened Divisonal Weekend in chilly snowy Kansas City and took care of Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 at Arrowhead Saturday afternoon. Kansas City led 17-0 early in the contest before the Colts got their first score thanks to a Chiefs’ special teams blunder when Zeke Pascal recoveed a blocked punt in the end zone to put themselves on the scoreboard. Mahomes then took matters into his own feet, scoring on a four-yard romp late in the second quarter to take a 24-7 lead with them to the intermission. Luck and T.Y. Hilton would pull the Colts to within 11 late in the fourth quarter before Kansas City would seal Indianapolis’ fate when RB Damien Williams, who opened the game’s scoring, closed it out with a six-yard run to take the win. Williams accounted for 129 yards to lead all rushers as the Chiefs outrushed the Colts 180-87 and Mahomes threw for 278 yards and despite being sacked four times, did not throw an interception, while Luck threw for 203 yards with three sacks and the lone TD toss to Hilton. While Kansas City floundered on third down tries at 4 of 14, they struck oil on fourth down, going 3 of 4 and ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 39:49, while the Colts were a dismal 0 for 9 on third down (they were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 20:11.

The Patriots knocked Kansas City out of the ranks of the unbeatens in the week six Sunday night contest in Foxboro, coming away 43-40 last second winners over the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Brady and New England led 24-13 at the intermission before the Chiefs would rally in the second half, outscoring New England 31-19 in the final 30 minutes of action. Kansas City took a 33-30 lead with 8:38 left when Tyreek Hill and Mahomes (352 yards, four TDs, two interceptions) connected on a 1-yard TD pass. That lead would not last long as Brady took matters into his own hands and feet, scoring from 4 yards out and the Pats would add to that lead when Stephen Gostkowski booted a 52-yarder to lead 40-33. The Chiefs were not going away quietly as Hill and Mahomes hooked up again with 3:03 left to re-tie the contest. New England went into a surgeon-like mode in the final 3:03, using a 7-play, 65-yard drive that used all the available time left in regulation when Gostkowski booted a 28-yard field goal as time expired. Brady threw for 340 yards with a TD toss to Josh Edelman as New England outrushed Kansas City 173-94 (New England rookie RB Sony Michel led everyone with 106 yards on the ground with a pair of TDs). New England was 7 of 13 on third down (the Pats were 0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 36:09 (including the final drive), while the Chiefs were 4 of 10 on third down (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 23:51.

New England in the week six Sunday night contest was favored by 3 1/2 but won by 3. Both clubs manged to wipe the 60 over/under off the face of the Earth, combining to score 83 points in Foxboro. The boys and girls in Vegas like the Chiefs as a 3-point favorite with a 56 over/under. For the Pats, they look to go back to the Super Bowl and erase the memory of what happened to them in Minneapolis; for the Chiefs, it will be their first trip to the big game since Hank Stram wore that blazer as he and Len Dawson took Minnesota to task in New Orleans. Everything’s up to date in Kansas City and so are the Chiefs. Pats make this one close but Chiefs prevail at Arrowhead.