NFL

Super Bowl 2020: Which teams can dethrone the Chiefs next season?

By Sports Desk February 03, 2020

The future is certainly bright for the Kansas City Chiefs after they were crowned Super Bowl LIV champions on Sunday.

A 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium earned veteran Andy Reid his first ring as head coach, while quarterback Patrick Mahomes became the youngest player to be named both MVP - an honour he won a year ago - and Super Bowl MVP in NFL history.

With Mahomes just 24, the Chiefs will have aspirations of dominating for the foreseeable future and replicating the two dynasties the New England Patriots and Tom Brady enjoyed with six Lombardi Trophies across two decades.

However, winning back-to-back Super Bowls is no mean feat - no team has done it since the Patriots 16 years ago - so we take a look at which teams could prevent Kansas City from winning it all again in Tampa Bay next February.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The best team in the NFL's regular season fell at the first hurdle in the playoffs as the 14-2 Ravens were upset at home by the Tennessee Titans.

That was a deflating note to end on for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was voted the NFL's MVP by unanimous vote 24 hours before Mahomes won his first ring.

Jackson is just 23, most of the Ravens' star players are expected to return and coordinators Greg Roman and Wink Martindale will likely be back alongside Coach of the Year John Harbaugh.

If Jackson is able to replicate or even exceed what he did in his first full year as the starter, the Ravens might be bound for Tampa next year.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Long live the kings? Don't count on it.

The 2019 season felt like the end of an era as Father Time looked he had finally caught up with 42-year-old quarterback Brady.

Yet those who have written off New England in the past have often ended up looking incredibly foolish.

The Patriots have 19 straight winning seasons, the best head coach in the game in Bill Belichick and had the NFL's number one defense in 2019. Brady's future remains uncertain but one final push for a Lombardi is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The nearly men of the past three seasons; Saints fans have been crushed by a trio of playoff defeats featuring walk-off plays.

New Orleans will believe they will be playing January football again after three straight seasons with double-digit wins.

Sean Payton remains one of the preeminent offensive minds, Michael Thomas broke the single-season record for receptions in 2019 and an underrated defense complements a free-scoring offense.

At 41, Drew Brees' career is coming to an end, but, presuming he decides to return next season, the Saints will surely be contending again.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers only went 8-8 in 2019 but San Francisco's transformation from 4-12 to 13-3 and a Super Bowl berth is evidence of how the NFL can quickly turn on its head.

What should give Steelers fans cause for optimism is that they won eight games without their starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger was still playing at an elite level prior to his 2019 season-ending injury, leading the league in passing yardage with a career high 5,129 yards in 2018.

Combine that with an impressive young defense and a head coach tried and tested in the postseason and you have the recipe for another Super Bowl run.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

A left-field suggestion, sure, but look at the significant strides both Mahomes and Jackson took in their second years in the league.

Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray believes he can make a similar leap in 2020 and, if he can, look out.

Arizona's offense under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury hummed at times in going 5-10-1 in 2019 and the addition of more weapons in free agency would significantly aid Murray's development.

Their biggest problem, beyond fixing a porous defense, is finding a way to come out on top in a division that contains the NFC's last two Super Bowl representatives - the 49ers and Los Angeles Rams - as well as postseason regulars the Seattle Seahawks.

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    The midfielder, who has now been involved in 17 goals in 16 Premier League games (9 goals, 8 assists), slotted in the latest goal in the top flight since Juan Mata's strike for Chelsea against Norwich City after 100 minutes and three seconds nine years ago.

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    Crystal Palace 1-2 Everton: Richarlison keeps Toffees perfect

    Everton have won their first three games of a Premier League season for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign but they were fortunate to beat Palace.

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    Cheikhou Kouyate brought Palace level but Richarlison won it with a penalty after a hugely contentious decision saw Joel Ward adjudged to have handled.

    Brazil striker Richarlison has scored 31 of his 32 Premier League goals from inside the penalty area and the winner was his first from the spot in the competition. One concern for Everton is that they have shipped more goals (18) from set-pieces than any other side since the start of last season.

     

    West Brom 3-3 Chelsea: Abraham completes comeback after Blues' defensive horror show

    Chelsea looked to be heading for back-to-back defeats when a Callum Robinson double and Kyle Bartley put Albion three up.

    Marcos Alonso and Premier League debutant Thiago Silva gave the Baggies a big helping hand with errors that took Chelsea's number of mistakes directly leading to goals this season to three, as many as they made in the entire 2019-20 campaign.

    The Blues have only kept one clean sheet in 21 Premier League away games under Frank Lampard, while they have conceded more goals (42) on their travels than any other side since the start of last season.

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    Each of Costa's first four wins in a UFC ring came via way of KO/TKO and in August 2019 he defeated Romero via unanimous decision.


    WHAT'S THEIR MMA RECORD (W-L-D)?

    Adesanya: 19-0-0

    Costa: 13-0-0


    TALE OF THE TAPE

    Adesanya:

    Age: 31
    Height: 6'4" (193cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 80"
    Leg reach: 44.5"

    Costa:

    Age: 29
    Height: 6'1" (185cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 72"
    Leg reach: 39.5"


    WHAT THEY'VE SAID

    Adesanya referred to Costa as an "inflated balloon animal" back in June and during his media activities ahead of UFC 253 made a figure out of balloons to impersonate Costa, saying: "Hey guys, my name is Paulo Costa. I'm the Eraser and I'm going to be the champion. Israel, I will erase you." Adesanya then twisted the balloons until they popped…

    In controversial comments to Submission Radio in August, Costa said: "I have just one question. Adesanya, why are you freezing when you face Romero? You're not a real champion, man. You don't deserve. I will kill you."


    FIGHT STATS IN UFC

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    - Of his successful strikes, 88 per cent have come from a standing position.

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    Costa:

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  • French Open 2020: Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, and why the G.O.A.T. debate is trash French Open 2020: Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, and why the G.O.A.T. debate is trash

    Roger Federer was once a habitual racket smasher but give him a chance and he'll duck this argument.

    Rafael Nadal possesses just about the meanest snarl in tennis but he could let this argument drop happily too.

    Even Novak Djokovic, no stranger to an argument, is averse to causing a rumpus in this case.

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    Considering Pete Sampras was once portrayed as super-human for reaching 14 slams, the achievements by the three titans of the modern game beggar belief.

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    From his Roland Garros debut in 1999 to a semi-final run at the Australian Open this year, the longevity of Federer has been almost as astonishing as some of his easy-on-the-eye tennis.

    The list of records he has racked up is bewildering, beginning with his unmatched 20 men's slam singles titles. The Swiss was the first man to go beyond Sampras, and in the men's game he is the only player to win three slams in the same season three times (2004, 2006, 2007), make 10 successful title defences, and win more than 100 matches at two different grand slams - Wimbledon and the Australian Open.

    He has reached an unsurpassed 31 slam singles finals (Nadal - 27, Djokovic - 26), and a mind-boggling 46 semi-finals at the four majors. Between the 2004 French Open, where he lost in the first round, and the 2010 edition at Roland Garros, where he fell in the quarters, Federer marched to the semi-final or further at 23 successive majors, winning 14 titles in that time.

    Reaching seven or more finals in any grand slam is a superlative feat, but Federer has achieved that in three of the four majors (Wimbledon - 12, US Open - 7, Australian Open - 7), and twice won five consecutive titles at individual majors (Wimbledon 2003-07, US Open 2004-08).

    And that is just scratching the surface.

    He has spent the most weeks at world number one (310) and the most consecutively so (237), and sits third on the ATP list for the most aces in a career (11,344), behind only the towering duo of one-trick wonders Ivo Karlovic and John Isner.

    NADAL: ONCE THE YOUNG UPSTART, FOR WHOM TWENTY WON'T BE PLENTY

    Nadal can almost claim to have equalled Federer's 10 successful title defences, after retaining his crown nine times at Roland Garros, while winning Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, having had to miss the 2009 tournament through injury.

    There are plenty of records the remarkable Spaniard can call his own though, beginning with his 12 French Open triumphs, the most titles won by a player in any of the four grand slam tournaments.

    From 2005 to 2014, Nadal won at least one slam every season, the 10-year streak setting him apart from Federer and Djokovic who have never managed such consistency.

    By securing Olympic singles gold in Beijing in 2008 and doubles at Rio in 2016, Nadal became the first man to claim the Games double on top of the career singles Grand Slam at all four majors.

    The Mallorca native's win-loss percentage on tour is the highest in men's tennis, with 992 wins and 201 defeats amounting to an 83.2 per cent hit rate (Djokovic - 83.1, Bjorn Borg - 82.4, Federer - 82.1).

    His 19 grand slams is not a record, of course, but another in Paris over the coming fortnight would take Nadal level with Federer.

    DJOKOVIC: THE INTERLOPER WHO COULD OUTLAST THE DIAMOND DUO

    Like Federer, Djokovic has reached eight or more semi-finals at each of the four majors, on his way to 17 slam titles. He was firm favourite for the US Open and an 18th slam earlier this month until being disqualified for carelessly hitting a ball that struck a linesperson.

    Many expect Djokovic to pass both Nadal and Federer and nudge to 21, 22 slams, maybe higher still, yet the 33-year-old may find that a tall order as the likes of Dominic Thiem break through.

    On and off the court, there have been moments to regret this year for Djokovic, but his career stands up to the best, and in many aspects he leaves Federer and Nadal standing.

    The Serbian is the only player in tennis to have won all four majors, the end-of-year ATP Finals and each of the nine highly-prized Masters 1000 tournaments.

    With his run of triumphs from Wimbledon in 2015 to the French Open in 2016, Djokovic became the first man to hold all four grand slam singles titles at the same time since Rod Laver in 1969 achieved a calendar clean sweep.

    Nobody has won as many Masters 1000 titles in a career (Djokovic - 36, Nadal - 35, Federer - 28), or reached as many ATP finals in a season as Djokovic's 15 in 2015, when he won 11 tournaments.

    Again, scratching the surface. Djokovic's records run to page after page, his place in the pantheon assured.

    To think, he was once the interloper on the celebrated Nadal-Federer rivalry. Now he has a chance to outstrip both in the numbers game.

    TOGETHER: DOMINANCE LIKE TENNIS HAS NEVER KNOWN BEFORE

    Federer won his first major at Wimbledon in 2003, and taking in that and the grand slams that have come since, the combination of Basel's favourite son, Spanish superstar Nadal and Belgrade favourite Djokovic have scooped 56 of 68 singles titles.

    Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, with three titles each, are the only two other men to win more than one slam during that 17-year span. Barely anyone else had a look-in.

    Such dominance is without equal in tennis.

    To take previous eras as comparison points, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors won all their grand slams between the 1974 Australian Open and the 1984 US Open, collectively gathering 26 titles across those 44 tournaments. Sensational, and it remains important to make that point, but the haul has been blown out of the water by the modern-day Big Three.

    Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg were the next generation and scooped 20 slams (Lendl - 8, Becker - 6, Edberg - 6) from a 48-tournament stretch beginning at the 1984 French Open and running through to the 1996 Australian Open.

    The mighty American triumvirate of Sampras, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier together earned 26 majors (Sampras - 14, Agassi - 8, Courier - 4) from the 1990 US Open through to the 2003 Australian Open - a 50-slam span.

    Agassi won in Australia in 2003, and Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero took the French Open title in the spring. Come the English summer, it was Federer's turn at the wheel for the first time, that first Wimbledon title signalling the dawning of a new era.

    LEGACY: THESE RECORDS COULD STAND THE TEST OF TIME

    As the sun begins to slowly descend, with Federer now 39 years old and Nadal and Djokovic well into their mid-thirties, the famous wins in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York will become fewer, and soon they will belong to memory.

    Another great generation will rise; perhaps not for some years to come, but doubtless they will rise.

    Yet asking them to scale the winning heights of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic triad might be another matter entirely.

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