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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  • Guardiola v Klopp: Coronavirus puts latest chapter of a defining rivalry on hold Guardiola v Klopp: Coronavirus puts latest chapter of a defining rivalry on hold

    Liverpool were set to emerge at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, either with the scent of triumph in their nostrils or the delicious addition of a guard of honour from Manchester City.

    The coronavirus pandemic has placed elite sport across the globe on hold, meaning the latest episode of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's captivating rivalry must wait.

    Nevertheless, given their former employers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were also due to meet in Der Klassiker, it feels like a good time to run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

    THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

    Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

    Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

    In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

    The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

    Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

    Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

    The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

    A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

    Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

    HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

    Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

    Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

    However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

    Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

    That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

    With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

    Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

    Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

    "He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

    TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

    Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

    But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

    When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

    City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

    Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

    Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

    A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

    But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

    CHASING PERFECTION

    Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

    Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

    Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

    Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

    That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

    Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

    In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

    Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

    Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

    Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

  • On this day in sport: Brathwaite leaves Stokes shattered, Popovich's sharp exit, Messi milestone On this day in sport: Brathwaite leaves Stokes shattered, Popovich's sharp exit, Messi milestone

    Ben Stokes must have endured nightmares over this day four years ago, when Carlos Brathwaite smashed West Indies to T20 World Cup glory in such dramatic fashion.

    Gregg Popovich also has bad memories of April 3, having been ejected only 63 seconds into the San Antonio Spurs' NBA clash with the Denver Nuggets last year.

    Lionel Messi scored two penalties when Barcelona beat Milan to reach the Champions League semi-finals on this day back in 2012.

    We take a look back at April 3 in sporting history.

     

    2016 - 'Remember the name' - Brathwaite goes berserk

    Stokes has had plenty to celebrate in the past year, but the England all-rounder endured a horror show at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

    Windies all-rounder Brathwaite was the star of the show, blasting Stokes for four sixes off the first four balls of the final over to ensure his side became the first to win two World T20 titles.

    Commentator and former West Indies bowler Ian Bishop belted out "remember the name" when Brathwaite sealed a stunning victory, having needed 19 off the final over.

    While Stokes has gone on to better things, he will certainly not have forgotten the name of Brathwaite. 

     

    2019 - Off you pop

    Some spectators may not have taken their seats when Spurs coach Popovich was given his marching orders 12 months ago.

    He took exception to a non-foul call and was issued a technical by official Mark Ayotte before being handed another by David Guthrie just over a minute after tip-off in an encounter with Denver.

    The Nuggets went on to win 113-85 three nights after Popovich was also ejected during a loss to the Sacramento Kings.

    2012 - Milestone for Messi as Milan crash out

    There have been many days when Messi achieved a milestone and his half-century of Champions League goals came eight years ago to the day.

    The Barcelona superstar made no mistake from the penalty spot twice as the Catalan giants beat Milan 3-1 to reach the last four.

    There were no goals in the first leg at San Siro, but Messi proved to the match-winner, with Andres Iniesta netting the third. Chelsea ended Barca's run at the semi-final stage, though, winning 3-2 on aggregate.

  • Coronavirus: Chiefs coach Reid working on Super Bowl defence from his basement Coronavirus: Chiefs coach Reid working on Super Bowl defence from his basement

    Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is working on the team's NFL Super Bowl title defence from his basement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    COVID-19 is wreaking havoc globally, with sport brought to a standstill – the Olympic Games has been postponed until 2021, while the NBA is among the leagues on hiatus.

    NFL teams are preparing for this month's draft, ahead of the start of the season in September, and Reid is still working hard, albeit from a different location.

    Reid, who led the Chiefs to glory in Super Bowl LIV, told reporters on Thursday: "I wish I could take you on a virtual tour of this thing.

    "It's kind of classic. I'm sitting in my basement, literally. I've got an arc trainer sitting here in case I want to jump on that to get a little exercise.

    "I've got my monitor set up, along with my computer, my iPad right next to that. And I've got one of my wife's antique tables here, a little coffee table that I'm using to throw everything on. But I'm in the basement, yeah. You know what? It's not bad.''

    "We stay as current as we can through information from the league. We're approaching it like we're having a season," Reid added. "I think it's twofold, because it can be a real positive energy-giver back to the country at a time of maybe need for that.

    "At the same time, we're very sensitive to everything going on. But as far as the offseason goes – again, we're out of the office until they let us know that we can get ourselves back in and so I've got different plans that I've kind of set up for different stages of [the offseason], whether it's virtual work or whether they let us back in the building for field work. Whatever it is, I've put together plans for that. And then we'll just take it day by day and see what presents itself.''

    The Chiefs were scheduled to start offseason conditioning on April 20 – three days before the NFL Draft – with practice to follow in May.

    "We've got a little time before that,'' Reid said. "We'll just see what direction it goes. That's normally a time we use for conditioning workouts. If we're allowed to do that virtually, we can go ahead and do that at that time. We'll try to stay in touch.

    "If we're allowed to visit with the players with our Webex units or whatever, we can do that. We're prepared to do all of that. And then if they're allowed back in the building, we're good with that. We've got that all planned out, too.''

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