Let the hype begin!
It is officially Super Bowl week, which means plenty of topics to discuss, dissect and dramatize until we finally get to kickoff Sunday night in Atlanta. Get ready for a heavy dose of Sean McVay, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Todd Gurley and every conceivable angle we, the media, can come up with before the big game.
It all kicks into high gear Monday night at “Opening Night,” formerly known as Media Day, and all the silliness that goes along with it. Here are 10 storylines you are sure to be tired of before sitting on your couch Sunday night:
1. Battle of the Ages: Rams coach Sean McVay just turned 33. Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 66. That means Belichick was already drawing up Giants defenses when McVay was still in diapers. McVay is the hottest coach in the game, as teams with coaching openings are desperate to find someone like him. Belichick is the best to ever put on a headset. It will be a fascinating matchup.
2. Battle of the Ages II: The age difference is not only on the sideline. It is also under center. Old man Tom Brady is now 41 years old and still leading the Patriots. Rams quarterback Jared Goff is only 24. Brady told ESPN on Sunday that there was “zero” percent chance this would be his final game. So, we can stash the “how long will Tom play” storyline … at least until Wednesday.
3. Roger Dodger: The focus of this week will not solely be on the Patriots and the Rams. There are still plenty of things lingering from last week’s championship games. The most notable is the pass interference call that was not called and helped the Rams to victory. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to address the blown call publicly. That likely will come Wednesday at 1 p.m. when he does his annual press conference. The AFC title game has also sparked a conversation on overtime rules, which Goodell may need to address as well.
4. Gronk’s last ride? The speculation about whether Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski may retire soon started last Super Bowl Sunday. It has not stopped. There have been reports that Gronkowski is considering hanging up his shoulder pads. He played well in the AFC Championship, but this will be a question that gets asked different ways this week to the big tight end.
5. Todd’s plan: Rams running back Todd Gurley has emerged as one of the best players in the league, but he was limited to just five touches in the NFC Championship and he dropped two passes. The Rams and Gurley say he is fine, that the knee injury he dealt with this season is not bothering him. Will he carry the load for the Rams or will C.J. Anderson get the majority of carries?
6. 2001 revisited: The Patriots and Rams met in the Super Bowl 17 years ago after the 2001 season. In that game, the Rams were the heavy favorites and Brady and Co. sprung the upset. Years later when the Spygate controversy hit, there were allegations the Patriots taped Rams practices to gain an advantage.
7. Coaches in waiting: Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores and Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will have no time to rest after this game. Flores is going to be the new coach of the Dolphins and Taylor is going to lead the Bengals. The teams cannot make anything official until after the Super Bowl.
8. Edelman’s odyssey: Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman missed the Patriots’ trip to the Super Bowl last year after tearing his ACL and sitting out the year. Then, he began this season with a four-game suspension for PED use. Edelman came up huge in overtime against the Chiefs in the AFC title game and made one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history two years ago. He will get plenty of attention this week.
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9. The Donald: In a game filled with stars, the best player on the field might be Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald. He can take over games. The Patriots offensive line played well in the AFC Championship, not allowing a sack of Brady. How they handle Donald could determine the outcome of this game.
10. Trade talk: Last year, the Chiefs traded Alex Smith to the Redskins during Super Bowl week. That set the wheels in motion for Kirk Cousins to hit free agency and led to six weeks of stories about where Cousins would end up. This year, wide receiver Antonio Brown could be the player that generates talk if the Steelers are shopping him. It seems unlikely a trade would happen this soon, but chatter might begin this week.