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Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen is better than Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning

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Mahomes-Allen is now NFL’s main event.

Mahomes-Allen is now NFL’s main event.
Image: Getty Images

Surely many of you believe that Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills should’ve been the Sunday Night Football matchup. It’s arguably the two best players and best teams in the league, played in front of a crowd that would be worked up into a lather no matter the weather.

Surely many of you believe that Kansas City Chiefs vs. Buffalo Bills should’ve been the Sunday Night Football matchup. It’s arguably the two best players and best teams in the league, played in front of a crowd that would be worked up into a lather no matter the weather.

However, do remember that four of America’s top-10 television markets are located in the seven-hour stretch of I-95 between Boston and Washington. Combine that with the Dallas Cowboys being the reigning, defending world’s most valuable sports franchise, and both hated and beloved up and down that section of interstate, they get the primetime slot for the big matchup.

While Chiefs vs. Bills has none of the history of Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles, they have the quarterback rivalry for Gen Z. Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen.

The Tom Brady-Peyton Manning matchup was always the most-hyped regular-season matchup of the year when Manning was more famous for having the authority to call a timeout on the field instead of frantically making the motion in his basement. The matchup fed into some easily digestible sports narratives. The prodigy and No. 1-overall pick, with the NFL QB father, against the sixth-round pick, underdog story of underdog stories who can’t help but win Super Bowls.

There was plenty of fanfare, but rarely were the games that compelling — besides of course that time during the 2006 season when football’s ultimate winner surrendered an 18-point lead and ended the game with an interception.

Mahomes vs. Allen is so much different. Since Allen took possibly the biggest leap in quality of play in 2020, this is turning into more of a classic boxing rivalry than football matchup. What Triple G vs. Canelo (sans the most recent fight), Ward vs Gatti, and of course Ali vs Fraizer had was a natural energy. Of course there’s heavy promotion to sell it, but even the viewers at home, or the bar, could feel the magnitude. Then the fight starts and it’s one blow followed by another, the crowd hanging on every swing. It’s sports in its highest form.

Even though the only moment that Mahomes and Allen share on the field together is the postgame handshake, their games, especially the last two, play out like a boxing match. The action is a little slow as they feel each other out, and then boom, one rolls to one side of the field then throws the ball to the other and drops it effortlessly into the wide receiver’s arms.

Now it’s time for the counter. This particular one doesn’t require nearly seven seconds of scrambling, just a big strong guy rearing back and throwing a pass 44 yards in the air for a touchdown, while flat-footed.

Once the pace picks up, it’s big shot after big shot. Both quarterbacks can scramble, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to take off and run. That being said, when Allen does, a defensive player better be on his toes, have his chin strap buckled, and mouthpiece in. Allen can run through him or around him, or in the case last night, over him, it all depends on what he thinks is most effective. Mahomes on the other hand, will make just enough players miss to reach that ball over the first-down line as he runs out of bounds, or slides.

Of course football is a team sport, and it was one of Allen’s teammates that helped him put the game away on Sunday. Of Mahomes’ last three drives, Von Miller ended the first two with a sack, and the final one was a pressure that resulted in an interception.

Score this fight a victory for Allen, just like their regular-season matchup last season, but Mahomes is still 2-0 in the postseason. There is a strong chance that they will see each other again in January, as they look like the two best teams in the NFL, and the Chiefs hope to not be missing two starting cornerbacks in a future meeting.

As big as Brady vs. Manning was, that just felt like football. Mahomes vs. Allen is something bigger. It’s got more horsepower, a higher wattage, and a piercing decibel level. It’s like Hagler-Hearns trying to knock each other’s heads into fourth row, except they’re doing it by throwing a football.

Energy. Pure, natural, sports, energy.



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A Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys rematch on Christmas Eve, yes please

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Oh what fun!

Oh what fun!
Image: Getty Images

Happy spooky season to all of you with pumpkin emojis in your social media names. May your costumes get you all of the likes, loves, eye emojis, and finally noticed by your crush.

I’ve always been more of a Christmas guy. The whole family gathers, I get to listen to classic songs that I never play other times of the year, and there’s sports. NBA on Christmas Day has been one of my Christmas traditions since Steve Kerr still played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For me, on the occasion that Christmas falls on Sunday, NFL games feel like an intrusion. Goodell, keep your shoulder pads and challenge flags away from me on Dec. 25. This is the one day I’m happy spending part of my day watching the New York Knicks play.

Christmas Eve, however, I’m ready for some football this year.

There is a Week 16 dandy on Saturday afternoon. Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Part II, this time hopefully with Dak Prescott.

The two teams played last night, and with the Eagles undefeated and the Cowboys having only lost one game, this Week 6 Sunday Night Football matchup looked like an early game of the year candidate for NBC. And with the Philadelphia crowd riled up after the Phillies took their bats to the Atlanta Braves’ championship defense at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, this was certainly a spooky-season night fit for “Dreams and Nightmares.”

What a nightmare it was for the Cowboys at first going, down 20-0. Backup Cooper Rush threw two of his three interceptions in the first half, and the Eagles tenderized the Cowboys’ defense like it was a brisket from H.E.B. This game had all the makings of this being the primetime moment when the Eagles separate themselves from the rest of the league in front of a crowd frothing at the mouth, during what might be the highest-rated regular-season game of the year.

For a while, it appeared that the only positive about this night for the Cowboys would be that the Rush experience would be over after Week 6, but the defense dialed in at the end of the first half and forced the Eagles into two field goals. Then someone must have clicked on Dorrough’s “Get Big” at halftime, because the Cowboys manhandled the Eagles to start the second half.

Ezekiel Elliot, Tony Pollard, it didn’t matter who carried the ball, the gains were significant. Zeke even looked swift again when he made that long cut for that 14-yard touchdown. On defense, this Cowboys unit that had been dominant all season swarmed Jalen Hurts, limiting his effectiveness.

Suddenly we had 20-17 game in the fourth quarter, until the Eagles finally scored again and Rush threw his final pick of the game on the next drive. Big plays on both sides of the ball, division rivals, fast and physical defense, oh please let’s run this back.

For those of you whose parents let you open one gift on Christmas Eve, we all get that experience later this year. If you’ve got a family party that day, either start it in the afternoon, or wait until night time.

While Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors should bring the always appreciated bad blood to Christmas Day, the game of the weekend is Cowboys Eagles II.

Get your eggnog ready.

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Padres, Phillies reach NLCS, Braves and Dodgers are out

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Was a rough night for Mookie Betts and the 111-win Dodgers.

Was a rough night for Mookie Betts and the 111-win Dodgers.
Image: Getty Images

The past 24 hours or so have been filled with shrieking referendums on the MLB playoffs and its structure. Not that this structure is really all that different from what came before. But the hope, expressed by yours truly as well, was that making the lower-seeded teams play one or two more games before even getting to the divisional round was supposed to reward those who romped through the regular season more than the playoffs had before.

Obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way. The Phillies and Padres are champions of nothing and yet will play for the championship of the National League. They aren’t just layabouts that hoped to goldbrick their way into the playoffs, though. Both have spent over $200 million this season in the hopes that they would run with the big dogs in their divisions. Their rosters were just kind of wonky in various ways that kept them from doing so. Should Cleveland run out of the Bronx with Game 5, you could definitely call their owners the kind of scourge that isn’t interested in being all they can be and getting away with it.

The wailing is two opposing sides, one screaming how unfair it is that a team can spend six months like the Dodgers, proving to be one of the most dominant teams of all time, and then have it all crash around their ears in the span of a weekend. Others are screaming in defiance about how much fun that makes the postseason. They’re both right, in a way. Because the playoffs aren’t a procession, because they really have nothing to do with what baseball and the baseball season is supposed to be. It’s why a lot of people tune in. And it is unfair that the best team doesn’t always, and even rarely, wins. Because they don’t lose due to any lacking or deficiency. They lose because of a brief spike in variance, something that gets lost in the 162 games but defines a short series. It is simply how that hand is dealt, and teams can’t control that.

But the thing is, it’s always been this way. Baseball’s problem, if it even has one, is that a lot of fans (probably more than any other sport given the average age of its fans versus the other sports) easily recall a time when just making the postseason was incredibly hard and was seen as a success. Having to win the division didn’t come around that often. The Red Sox and Cubs and Whtie Sox streaks of futility were epic not just because of their length, but because of how few shots they got to end them. The Red Sox only had 1967, or 1975, or 1986. It wasn’t just the not winning, but the fact that those chances were so sacred and so few. They lost out on so much more than just a chance for a historic parade. The climb back there seemed so daunting. The Cubs’ and White Sox’s chances were even more rare.

Manny Machado celebrates San Diego Padres reaching NLCS.

Manny Machado celebrates San Diego Padres reaching NLCS.
Image: Getty Images

But it wasn’t just them. Those late 80s A’s teams were absolutely loaded. They only won the Series once, and in fact got clocked in two others. But we remember them as an all-time great, because even being there was seen as such an accomplishment. The 90s Braves assembled maybe the greatest pitching staff of all-time. One World Series win. The 2008 Phillies very well may not have been as good as the three Phillies teams that came after them. Still only won the once. Mid-90s Cleveland never won one. The early 90s Pirates never even got to the World Series. This list could go on.

And yet teams that made the playoffs at all before say 1995 are still celebrated, even if they didn’t win. Because they did accomplish something that was rare. We don’t do that anymore, and probably won’t again. Everything has become defined by titles in a NBA-like fashion, but basketball is just a different game.

Our perception of the World Series has changed as the playoffs have expanded and trips to them have gotten more automatic for a group of teams at a given time. Now it’s championship or bust. But even the four-playoff team system was rarely fair, as seen above. Seven games is a mere drop compared to 162. There really isn’t a fair baseball playoff system to be found without making every series best of 13 or 15 or something. And that’s never coming.

We don’t remember any particular Dodgers loss before winning the World Series. They’re just a block of losses now, because the chances aren’t that sacred. They’re only seen as blowing a chance at what could have been and not what came before and what went into it. That six months of work and excellence is just par for the course now. Rote. Same will go for the Astros should they not win in a couple weeks. The playoffs are seen as a given, not the six-month-long journey it used to be.

The fear is that should we continue to see the regular season devalued, to be rendered moot or a waste by what happens over just a few days in October, it will have actual effects on teams and the way they’re built. We’re not there, yet. Again, the Phillies and Padres are teams that have tried hard the past few years. When we get a raft of 87-win teams in the postseason, and continually successful, perhaps we will see a change. There are some signs. Attendance has dropped, but owners don’t seem to mind much. They don’t really need regular-season attendance. Their big TV contracts are in the postseason, which means it won’t ever shrink or be changed in a way that makes sense. We could slip down this slope to something truly distasteful, but it’s still some ways off.

But what those who bemoan the randomness of this postseason system are longing for are the days when we held esteem for what a team did during the regular season. Those days are probably gone. I think of the Giants last year, a 107-win team really out of nowhere, that in a different time would be talked about in the same way 1993’s 103-win team that didn’t even get to the playoffs is. A rare but cherished anomaly. And yet last year’s Giants team’s season ended in less than a week. And I don’t know that they’re ever thought of even a year later.

That 1993 Giants team was basically the reason the wild-card was invented. It was seen as justice for any team like that that would follow, that they would also be rewarded for their excellence. And yet it feels like all it’s done is basically wipe those types of teams from memory, somewhere in the rubble of variance-swept division or LCS series. They’re all just another non-champ.

Baseball has always been this way, we just view it differently.

Hmm

And now, simplicity:

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