Dec 25, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Saints’ Kamara placed on reserve/COVID-19 list

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has tested positive for coronavirus and has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team annnounced on Friday.

Kamara will be out for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers and his postseason eligibility — at least for the wild-card round — is now in question.

The star running back, who was coming off a six-touchdown performance on Christmas Day against the Minnesota Vikings, had mixed results on tests Friday afternoon, but a later test confirmed he is positive for COVID-19, ESPN reported.

The Saints have clinched the NFC South title and will likely host a playoff game next weekend if it doesn’t ascend to the conference’s top seed.

New Orleans (11-4) can only clinch the No. 1 seed — and the first-round bye that comes with it — with a win against Carolina (5-10) plus a loss by Green Bay (12-3) to Chicago (8-7) and a win by Seattle (11-4) against San Francisco (6-9).

It is yet to be determined whether Kamara would be cleared to play in a wild-card game next weekend, so the Saints will have plenty of incentive and rooting interest Sunday as it hopes to sneak into the No. 1 spot in the NFC.

Latavius Murray should handle the bulk of the backfield work with Kamara sidelined.

Kamara has 187 carries for a career-high 932 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, tied for first in the NFL. He leads all running backs in receiving with a career-best and team-leading 83 receptions for 756 yards with five touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs the ball against the New England Patriots in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Bills to host playoff game with limited fans in stands

The Buffalo Bills will be allowed to have nearly 7,000 fans in the stands when they host their first playoff game in 24 years, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

They will be the first spectators at a professional sporting event in New York state since the coronavirus brought sports to a halt in mid-March. Bills Stadium in Orchard Park seats about 72,000.

To be admitted into the stadium, each of the 6.772 ticket holders must have a recent negative COVID-19 test conducted through the NFL’s testing partner, Bioreference Laboratories. The $63 cost of the test will be folded into the price of the ticket.

“Every fan must test negative before game, wear a mask & social distance. There will be post-game contact tracing,” Cuomo tweeted.

“To Bills fans — be smart.”

Fans will not be allowed to tailgate at Bills Stadium. Cuomo previously said that any fan who fails to comply with the mask rule will be ejected from the stadium.

The Bills (12-3) will host a game either Jan. 9 or 10 in the AFC wild-card round of the playoffs. Their opponent will not be determined until the conclusion of play in Week 17 this weekend.

To this point, the Bills and the metro New York teams — the Knicks, Nets, Mets and Yankees — have played without fans, as have major college teams such as Syracuse. The U.S. Open golf and tennis tournaments also were held this year sans spectators.

Only Army football was allowed to play before a limited number of fans because the campus in West Point, N.Y., is on federal land and not subject to the state ban.

In Buffalo, the bulk of the tickets will be made available to Bills season ticket holders who opted into purchasing tickets earlier this year, and they will be notified of their chance to buy them, based on seniority.

These undoubtedly will be a hot ticket.

The Bills last played a home playoff game on Dec. 28, 1996 — a 30-27 loss to Jacksonville. The tough Jaguars’ defense held the Bills — led by future Hall of Fame members Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas — to 308 total yards. Kelly was 21 of 39 passing for 239 yards that day, and Thomas ran for 50 yards.

The Bills have qualified for the playoffs four times since then, all losses.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; A general view of the  Buffalo Bills helmet before game against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Cuomo: NY considering limited fans for Bills’ playoff game

New York state officials are evaluating a proposal by the Buffalo Bills that would allow 6,700 fans at their home playoff game next month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The Bills, winners of the AFC East title, will host their first home playoff game since 1995. Bills Stadium has been without fans all season.

Cuomo said a proposal that would require rapid testing for COVID-19, combined with the ability for postgame contact tracing, is being studied. He said it could serve as a model for how large-scale events could be held in the future.

“We would like to do it,” Cuomo said during his COVID-19 briefing from the state capital of Albany. “Nothing is final.”

Fans also would be required to wear masks and be subject to ejection from the stadium if they didn’t.

The Bills haven’t offered details about their proposal, including how the small number of fans would be chosen. The stadium seats approximately 73,000, so 6,700 fans would fill about 9.2 percent of capacity.

“We are continuing to work with the Governor’s Office regarding the details of a plan to possibly host a limited amount of spectators at our home playoff game. Nothing has been finalized at this point,” team spokesman Derek Boyko told The Buffalo News in an email.

Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to attend the game.

“I would like to be at that game — a playoff game — as much as anyone,” he said Sunday. “This has been a long time coming for Buffalo, and there are no fans like Buffalo Bills fans.”

And the fervor of Bills’ fans has state officials worried about the potential spread of COVID-19 through home watch parties and such.

Thousands of fans showed up the meet the team at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport early Sunday morning, hours after the Bills clinched the division title when they beat the Broncos in Denver.

“That’s how disease spreads,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, the state health commissioner.

After Cuomo spoke on Wednesday, Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said his administration is out of the loop on the potential of hosting fans. He told The Buffalo News that the county doesn’t have the resources for the required COVID-19 testing and contact tracing for an event of this size.

The Bills (11-3) currently are the second seed in the AFC. If the season ended today, they would host the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round of the playoffs. A win in that game would give them a second home contest in the AFC divisional round.

–Field Level Media

Jan 4, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA;  A view of the Wild Card logo before the AFC Wild Card NFL Playoff game between the Houston Texans and the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Owners approve plan for potential 16-team playoffs

NFL owners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to allow two more teams into an already expanded playoff field in the event the 2020 regular-season schedule is not completed in 18 weeks, NFL Network reported.

The contingency plan has the potential to put 16 teams into a jam-packed race to the Super Bowl.

In a March vote among owners, the playoff field was expanded to 14 teams for this season, meaning that 43.8 percent of the teams would make it to the postseason. Now, a 16-team playoff — allowing half the teams to make it in the field — would happen if the COVID-19 pandemic further wreaks havoc on the schedule.

While the NFL normally has each team complete a 16-game schedule in 17 weeks, an 18th week will be added as a buffer for any games that were postponed amid the pandemic. If any games with playoff implications still remain after 18 weeks, the 16-team playoff plan would go into effect.

An original plan for a 16-team playoff would have seeded the teams by their record in the conference from best to worst. But a change Tuesday will make the division winners the top four seeds while categorizing the remainder of the field as wild cards.

That decision has a major impact on the NFC East, whose winner would get a top-four seed in the 16-team playoff plan, even though they could finish under .500. At issue was a scenario where eight NFC teams had a better record than the NFC East winner.

Also on Tuesday, NFL owners approved a proposal that would give teams extra compensatory third-round draft picks if they develop minorities that go on to become a head coach or a general manager for another team.

–Field Level Media

Jan 18, 2020; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron holds up the National Championship trophy during the LSU championship trophy presentation at Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

CFP Selection Committee plans to be ready for playoffs

The College Football Playoff Selection Committee plans to be ready should a postseason be in the cards.

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 are in alignment with the Southeastern Conference with plans to play this fall, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 are opting for the spring.

“We don’t know right now what the season will bring, but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams,” said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, who is beginning his first year as committee chair.

“The committee’s task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field. This week gave us a great chance to catch up with the familiar faces and welcome our three new members to the process. If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready.”

The final selection committee rankings of the 2020 season is slated to be released on Dec. 20. The committee will also announce the matchups for the semifinals at the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, as well as the other New Year’s Six bowl pairings.

The College Football Playoff on Thursday announced recusals for 10 of its 13 selection committee members. However, four of them have asterisks by their names because their affiliated schools aren’t playing in the fall.

The recusal policy remains the same as it has the past six years.

“A recused member is permitted to answer only factual questions about the institution from which the member is recused but shall not be present during any deliberations regarding that team’s selection or seeding,” the policy states.

–Field Level Media

Is Playoff Experience an Indicator of Future Success?

Every postseason, young teams are counted out from contention because they don’t have “playoff experience,” but does that really matter?

To answer that question we first, we compared Super Bowl wins and playoff appearances. There are 9 teams that have made the playoffs at least 8 times since 2002. All but one of the teams won at least one Super Bowl. The only team missing was the Falcons and we all know how that turned out. 

Secondly, we compared Super Bowl Wins and Playoff Win Percentage. All of the teams that have won the Super Bowl since 2002 have won 50% or more of their postseason games, regardless of the number of playoff appearances they’ve had.

While it may not be the perfect indicator, Playoff Experience is certainly a strong metric for predicting the Super Bowl winner.

The graphic below compares the number of Playoff Appearances and Postseason Win percentage for each team, also indicating whether or not they’ve won a Super Bowl since 2002. Hover over the graph to split into 4 quadrants, revealing the number of teams, and the percent of Super Bowl winners.

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Teams That Can't Buy Success – A Look at the NFL's Longest Droughts

Days before Super Bowl III, Joe Namath famously guaranteed his New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. His guarantee came true, and New York fans rejoiced. 49 years later, the Jets faithful have had little to celebrate, apart from their postseason win over the Patriots in January of 2011. It’s been a tough go of it, but maybe things will turn around for them soon.

The last time the Browns won their division, it was called the AFC Central, and the year was 1989. Since then, they’ve had only 3 winning seasons.

For most fans, it’s bad news to hear the term Drought and their favorite team in the same conversation. We’ve compiled data on each team, and how long it’s been since their last:

  • Divisional Title
  • Playoff Appearance
  • Playoff Win
  • Super Bowl Appearance
  • Super Bowl Win

Use the drop down menu to change categories.

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Wild Card Appearances (2002-2018)

Since the NFL was restructured in 2002, there are four teams that have not played in the postseason as a wild card. The Patriots, Bears, Texans and Buccaneers have either won their division or missed the playoffs completely.

In the same time frame, the Patriots have made 14 postseason appearances. Combined, the Bears, Bucs and Texans have made 10 appearances. 

Amount of wild card appearances is a good metric for the continued strength of a division as a whole. The graphic below displays each division and the number of wild card appearances since 2002. The AFC North comes out on top, boasting five consecutive seasons from 2008-2012 in which they sent at least two teams to the postseason. The AFC East and NFC West each finished with only six appearances.

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Team preview: Kansas City Chiefs

<p> In 2012, the Kansas City Chiefs finished the regular season with a 2-14 record, good for worst in the National Football League. Under new head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey in 2013, the Chiefs turned that lackluster effort around and improved to 11-5.</p> <p> Critics will say it was the easy fourth-place schedule that served as the catalyst for Kansas City’s quick turnaround. I disagree. Having known John Dorsey for almost 25 years and having worked with Reid for one year, I know better. Both are outstanding leaders and did what was necessary to bring confidence to an already talented roster.</p> <p> The Chiefs got to the playoffs a year ago, but blew a 28-point lead in the second half of their wild card game at Indianapolis and wound up losing by a point. A loss like that can either demoralize a team or motivate them. I am betting that the loss will motivate the Chiefs to try and equal or surpass what they did a year ago.</p> <p> <strong>Quarterback </strong></p> <p> Alex Smith struggled for a good part of his time in San Francisco. Many labeled him a “bust” as Smith didn’t live up to being the first player picked in the 2005 NFL draft. Be that as it may, Smith still played very good football last year in Kansas City. He has matured as a player and become a good leader. While Smith isn’t in the same category of quarterbacks like Manning, Brees, Brady and Rodgers, he is a solid winning NFL quarterback.</p> <p class="co_image co_image_right inline_right"> <img alt="Alex Smith" src="http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/chiefs-4439.jpg" />Smith threw a career-high 23 touchdown passes last season.</p> <p> For the season, Smith completed 308 of 508 passes for over 3,300 yards, 23 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions. With 2014 being Smith’s second year in Reid’s system, I expect him to show improvement in all areas. Being that he is only 30-years-old, his best football is still in front of him.</p> <p> In Chase Daniel, the Chiefs have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Daniel is capable of winning any time he steps on the field. In the fifth round, the Chiefs stole Aaron Murray from Georgia. Had it not been for a torn ACL, Murray would have gone much higher in the draft. 2014 will be strictly a developmental year for him.</p> <p> <strong>Running back</strong></p> <p> <a href="http://footballpost.wpengine.com/Chiefs-sign-Jamaal-Charles-to-twoyear-extension.html" target="_self">Armed with a new contract extension</a>, Jamaal Charles is ready to continue as one of the premier running backs in the NFL. While Charles isn’t one of the league’s biggest backs, he is one of the fastest and most explosive players in the game. He is a threat to make a big play any time he touches the ball.</p> <p> Rookie De’Anthony Thomas from Oregon is a smaller version of Charles. He has great breakaway ability and is very reliable catching the ball. Knile Davis and Cyrus Gray are two talented, but unproven backups.</p> <p> Fullback Anthony Sherman doesn’t get much publicity, but he is excellent at what he does. Sherman is a premier run and pass blocker and while he only touches the ball about once a game, Sherman averages almost eight yards per touch.</p> <p> <strong>Receivers and tight ends</strong></p> <p> The Chiefs need more production from their wide receiver unit. Dwayne Bowe had the most receptions among wide receivers last season with 57. Next was Donnie Avery with 40 catches.</p> <p> Bowe has reportedly lost weight and is in excellent shape. He needs to up his production by at least 20 percent and Avery needs to nearly double his production. Former 49ers wideouts Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins need to come on as the third and fourth receivers. If Jenkins doesn’t improve, his days in the NFL could be over. Junior Hemingway is a good special teams player and has excellent hands, but needs to develop his route running.</p> <p> At the tight end position, injuries just about wiped out this group in 2013. Anthony Fasano, the top tight end, missed seven games. When healthy, Fasano is a reliable receiver who can also block. Last year’s third-round pick in Travis Kelce missed most of last year with a knee injury. He functions like a big wide receiver and can create mismatches.</p> <p> The blocking tight end, Sean McGrath, retired and the Chiefs will need to find a strong blocker to replace him.</p> <p> <strong>Offensive line</strong></p> <p> The offensive line is a position group that is in transition and line coach Andy Heck has his work cut out for him. The Chiefs lost some players on the O-Line during free agency. That will hurt the depth, but perhaps not the efficiency.</p> <p> Last year’s first overall draft pick in Eric Fisher moves over to left tackle. While Fisher struggled some on the right side as a rookie, he is a natural left tackle and after a year in the league, knows what is expected of him.</p> <p> The right tackle will be Donald Stephenson, who was the third tackle a year ago. This is Stephenson’s third year and he is ready to be a starter. There will be a battle during training camp for the third tackle spot between Ryan Harris and J’Marcus Webb, who have both been starters in the league and have had their moments. The winner will be the one who can play both tackle spots with consistency.</p> <p> The fourth tackle will be rookie Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, who played his college football in Canada. Laurent has the physical traits, but is raw and will need a year to develop and get used to the speed of the NFL. The Chiefs have to keep him on the 53-man roster because of his talent and upside.</p> <p> At left guard, Jeff Allen returns. While he had some games where he struggled in 2013, he is very talented as well as athletic and will settle down in 2014. Who plays right guard will be determined in training camp. Right now, three players are fighting for the job. Rishaw Johnson started the final game last year and had his moments. Rookie Zach Fulton is strong and looked good during OTA’s and camp to date. Free agent Jeff Linkenbach, who the Chiefs signed away from Indianapolis, can play guard or tackle and will be a valuable reserve if he doesn’t start. The player with the most upside is Fulton.</p> <p> The center position is in good hands with steady Rodney Hudson, the Chiefs’ second-round pick from 2011.</p> <p> <strong>Defensive line</strong></p> <p class="co_image co_image_right inline_right"> <img alt="Justin Houston" src="http://cdn.cloudfiles.mosso.com/c1910342/media_center/images/rendered/blog/wysiwyg/houston-5865.jpg" />Linebacker Justin Houston has notched 21.0 sacks over his last 27 regular season games.</p> <p> People questioned the Chiefs when they selected Dontari Poe in the first round of the 2012 draft. The good news for Kansas City is that they are laughing last, as Poe has turned into the best nose tackle in football. While most nose tackles can only stop the run, Poe can also rush the passer. What the Chiefs need is a solid backup so Poe can come off the field. He played 95 percent of the defensive downs last year.</p> <p> The starting ends should be Vance Walker and Mike DeVito. Walker, who was a free agent signee from the Raiders, has better pass rush skills than last year’s starter Allen Bailey. DeVito also is strong versus the run, but has to get better rushing the passer.</p> <p> To play in the rotation, the Chiefs have Bailey and second-year man Mike Catapano. Catapano ha
s put on 20 solid pounds and is more ready to play and it is hopeful he can provide some pass rush. Two others who figure into the rotation will be Kyle Love and Jaye Howard. Love started 25 games while with New England and could be the guy who gives Poe a break.</p> <p> <strong>Linebackers</strong></p> <p> This is one of the stronger units on the club. Inside is Derrick Johnson, who has been a steady player for ten years. In free agency, the Chiefs signed Joe Mays away from the Texans. While pass coverage is the best element of Mays’s game, he is also a sound run defender. Nico Johnson, a fourth-round pick a year ago, also figures into the equation inside.</p> <p> Outside, the Chiefs are very good. On one side is consistent Tamba Hali, who still is strong in his ninth year, with 11 sacks a year ago. The starter on the other side is Justin Houston, who is also an excellent pass rusher. Houston missed five games yet still notched 11 sacks in 2013.</p> <p> In the first round of May’s draft, Kansas City added Auburn defensive end Dee Ford. Ford will convert to linebacker, but will still be playing down in pass rush situations. He was one of the top pass rushers in college football last year and is easily athletic enough to play on his feet.</p> <p> <strong>Secondary</strong></p> <p> The Chiefs recently decided it was time to part ways with long-time starting corner Brandon Flowers. Flowers signed with San Diego and will be a huge upgrade for the Chargers at the position.</p> <p> With the Chiefs wanting to play a lot of press man coverage, the need is for tall corners. The man who is in good position to replace Flowers is Marcus Cooper, who is in his second year from Rutgers. Cooper is 6’2” and has the press skills that the Chiefs are looking for. The other corner will be veteran Sean Smith, who is also a tall and long athlete. His specialty is press coverage.</p> <p> A rookie who will get a long look will be Phillip Gaines from Rice. Gaines is long and can run and like the others, can play press. Ron Parker will also get a look and played well in OTA’s. Chris Owens, a free agent who was with the Dolphins, can play inside on the slot. This group is young and inexperienced and needs to step up to the plate if the Chiefs are going to be successful.</p> <p> At safety, Eric Berry is one of the best in the business. He can cover like a corner and is excellent in run support. The other safety will be Husain Abdullah, who gets his chance to start after being a backup last year. He replaces Kendrick Lewis, who was not a fit in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s scheme. Jerron McMillian and Sanders Commings should be the primary backups.</p> <p> <strong>Outlook</strong></p> <p> With the Chiefs winning 11 games a year ago, a lot is expected entering the fall. Kansas City has some question marks in that the offensive line and the defensive backfield have a lot of new faces and they have to come of age very quickly.</p> <p> Still, Andy Reid is one of the best in the business and he will have his team ready to play come the first week in September. Having worked with Reid for one year and played against him for many, I know you can never sell his team short. They come to play every week.</p> <p> My feeling is the Chiefs may not have enough to beat Denver for the division, but should once again be a wild card team. The key will be how they perform during the season series with rival San Diego.</p> <p> <strong>Follow Greg on Twitter:</strong> @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/greggabe" target="_blank">greggabe</a></p>