Championship Sunday is set, and it's a gift from the sports gods.
The Los Angeles Rams are heading to the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints in the opener. Then the New England Patriots will visit Arrowhead to face the Kansas City Chiefs. We love offense, and we have the top four scoring attacks from the regular season in the NFL's final four. As a football fan, it doesn't get any juicier. Two high-powered attacks and sensational play-callers in the NFC. The greatest dynasty in sports history taking the show on the road to K.C. for the first-ever AFC title game in that football-rich city. Bill Belichick vs. Andy Reid. Wow.
But there's one storyline that is beyond sizzling. There's one matchup that takes the cake on Championship Sunday.
Mahomes is truly a special talent, doing things that have never been done before. It's the no-look pass. It's the lefty throw. It's the shortstop-like delivery. It's the majestic bombs. It's the touch. It's spreading the ball around, exploiting his stars like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce while making everyone else better. Patty Mahomes is John Elway meets Superman. Only better.
Mahomes' numbers in his first season as an NFL starter are freakishly amazing. He joined Peyton Manning in the ultra-exclusive 50-touchdown/5,000-yard club, guiding the Chiefs to a 12-4 record, an AFC West title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs. But plenty of folks questioned the Chiefs entering the postseason, given the franchise's playoff history, Andy Reid's January resume, the fact that Kansas City had appeared vulnerable down the stretch and that the Colts were the hottest team in football.
Then the Chiefs immediately jumped out to a 17-0 lead on Saturday and never looked back, cruising to a 31-13 win over Andrew Luck and Co. Mahomes put on another clinic, Kansas City's defense supplied its most impressive effort of the season and the Chiefs punched history in the mouth. Because of course they did. The past isn't prologue with these Chiefs. Not with No. 15 under center.
2018 is the season of Mahomes. There was laughter over the summer when I predicted across all media platforms that the second-year pro would dominate, calling him "a dark-horse MVP candidate" in this space. Who's laughing now? Mahomes is an unprecedented gift to football. On Friday, I picked the Chiefs to down the Colts on SiriusXM Radio and CBS Sports Network. Why stop now? Who wants to pick against MVPatty?
This AFC title bout is a rematch of a memorable "Sunday Night Football" game in Foxborough back in Week 6. The Pats led 24-9 at the half, but the Chiefs came storming back before eventually losing, 43-40, on Stephen Gostkowski's field goal as time expired. I talked to Mahomes a couple weeks after that game. While he was enthused by the way K.C. got into a groove in the second half, the 23-year-old signal-caller stressed the most important takeaway from the loss.
"I think the biggest thing is you can't make mistakes," Mahomes said in late October. "I know we made the mistakes and left points out there in the first half. When you play a team of that caliber, you play a team that's been on the big stage and that's gonna be in the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl, you can't make mistakes against them. And so, for us, I mean, if we wanna get to that stage, if we wanna get to the Super Bowl and we wanna do that stuff, we have to make sure that we're on top of everything from the get-go."
That's what the Chiefs did on Saturday, scoring on their first three possessions. And I expect them to come out firing again on Sunday, when the Pats hit Arrowhead. Bill Belichick is the best coach in sports history and a defensive mastermind. But it's Patty Mahomes. It's his time.
I've long argued that the Brady/Belichick Patriots are the best dynasty in sports history, considering the NFL's salary cap and free agency and a system brilliantly set up to foster worst-to-first jumps. The Patriots are playing in their eighth straight AFC Championship Game. I'm not sure there's a better hallmark of the greatness.
Brady has five rings and eight Super Bowl appearances. He owns the postseason. And now he's the self-designated underdog on Sunday? After New England's blowout win over the Chargers, Brady told CBS's Tracy Wolfson, "I know everyone thinks we suck and, you know, can't win any games. So we'll see." The best winner in NFL history playing the "nobody believes in us" card. Perfect.
I obviously don't think the Patriots suck. I just feel these Chiefs are better. And, unlike in Week 6, they're the home team. And suddenly, the side of the ball that doesn't feature Patrick Mahomes is on the warpath. Kansas City should be energized by how Chris Jones, Dee Ford and the defense played on Saturday. Chiefs DC Bob Sutton won't be passive like Chargers DC Gus Bradley inexplicably was.
Championship Sunday's games are going to be on fire. Points will prevail. And the season's most enticing star will provide another must-see chapter.
Under the watchful eye of Andy Reid, Mahomes has produced a season for the ages. A win over the greatest dynasty -- and greatest quarterback -- in NFL history to make the Super Bowl? Well, obviously.