For a moment, let’s dispense with the manufactured duel. While hype is sure to continue festering over Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, the pair never will be on the field at the same time Sunday.

The more literal matchup in the NFC title game at Lambeau Field will involve Rodgers against Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and Brady versus Packers coordinator Mike Pettine.

As far as the latter pairing goes, well, Bucs fans should be beaming.

Pettine, whose journeyman coaching career has taken him to six NFL teams, has lost his last eight meetings against Tom Brady either as a head coach or defensive coordinator. The drought dates to the 2011 season, when Pettine served as Rex Ryan’s coordinator with the Jets.

While winning three of five against Brady’s New England teams earlier in his tenure on Ryan’s staff (including a playoff triumph in 2010), Pettine lost his last four to Brady and the Patriots while with New York. He also lost both games against New England as Bills defensive coordinator in 2013, and has lost twice to Brady-led teams while with the Packers.

He never faced Brady in two seasons (2014-15) as Browns head coach.


“I know the kind of team they are and what they’re capable of,” said Brady, who last lost to a Pettine-coached defense in the AFC divisional playoffs nearly a decade ago (a 28-21 defeat on Jan. 16, 2011). “Really talented defense, really well coached.”

In two meetings against Green Bay during Pettine’s tenure, Brady has thrown for 460 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. In addition to a 38-10 Bucs home triumph in October, Brady’s 2018 Patriots team topped the Packers, 31-17 at home in November 2018.

CHIEFS: Patrick Mahomes took the majority of first-team reps in practice Thursday, even though he remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol, raising expectations he will start in the AFC championship game against the Buffalo Bills.

Mahomes was initially listed as a full participant when he returned to practice Wednesday, but the Chiefs quickly corrected his status to limited because he remains in the protocol. He must be cleared by team physicians and an independent neural consultant before the reigning Super Bowl MVP can be a full participant in practice or play in a game.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire practiced for the second straight day as he comes back from a high-ankle sprain he sustained in Week 15, as did wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has been out because of a calf injury since Week 16.

EAGLES: Nick Sirianni’s success working with various quarterbacks with different styles will come in handy in his new job.


The Philadelphia Eagles are nearing a deal to hire Sirianni to be their head coach, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Sirianni has been the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts the past three seasons. He worked under Coach Frank Reich, who was offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when the Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago.

Sirianni, 39, previously served as an assistant coach with the Chiefs and Chargers.

The Eagles fired Doug Pederson following a 4-11-1 season, less than three years after he led the team to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.

Sirianni worked with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers in Indianapolis and coached Rivers in San Diego and Matt Cassel in Kansas City. Now he’s tasked with figuring out how to get Carson Wentz back to his 2017 form and developing Jalen Hurts, a rookie in 2020.

VIKINGS: Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak retired after a 36-year career as a player, coach and adviser, the team announced.


The decision, though widely expected, will force Coach Mike Zimmer to hire a sixth offensive coordinator in six seasons.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh signed former Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins to a futures contract, giving the 23-year-old a second chance after he flamed out in less than two seasons.

RAMS: Los Angeles hired Raheem Morris as its defensive coordinator.

Morris is the team’s third defensive coordinator in three seasons. He replaces Brandon Staley, who became the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach last weekend.

Morris finished last season as the Atlanta Falcons’ interim head coach, going 4-7 as Dan Quinn’s temporary replacement.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville hired Trent Baalke as general manager, removing the interim tag from his title and pairing him with new coach Urban Meyer.


Team owner Shad Khan is switching to a coach-centric model in which Meyer and Baalke will both report to him to “have transparency and (fill) the needs and concerns of both parties without really getting filtered or have a chain of command.” Meyer, though, is expected to have final say over the roster and most everything else.

“Trent thoroughly knows the NFL and the dynamics of today’s game, has an exceptional eye for talent and I know will have excellent chemistry with head coach Urban Meyer as they begin their mission to bring a consistent winner to our fans in Jacksonville,” Khan said in a statement.

Khan interviewed five minority candidates and Baalke for the team’s open GM job. He met with former Houston executive Rick Smith, current ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, former New York Giants GM Jerry Reese, former Cleveland GM Ray Farmer and New Orleans executive Terry Fontenot.

Fontenot was named Atlanta’s GM on Monday.

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