Each week between now and the Super Bowl, Marc Sessler will scan the NFL landscape for people, places and things -- events both evil and just, noble and impure, delightful and inglorious, filled with wise men and anti-heroes -- that burn bright on his radar.
Here's this week's briefing:
Level IX clearance/eyes-only gridiron report from Feb. 3, 2020
The following exists as an update from our earth's future.
This information was shipped into my possession by what I will label, in layman's terms, a TOMORROW-BOT.
"WTF?" you ask.
From what little I've been told, a TOMORROW-BOT is a brand of secret technology already in play and used by factions of our government here in the United States, along with a smattering of known and unknown ruling bodies in Europe, Antarctica, the Russian Far East and The Golden Crescent.
TOMORROW-BOT technology is too dense a topic to unpack fully on NFL.com -- and too volatile a subject matter -- but consider it an avenue for elite, sometimes-sinister forces to manipulate history. This is all I've been told.
The following was sent to me as a benign example of what TOMORROW-BOT technology offers to those who harness it, with a caveat: The future is slippery -- always.
Still, my sources state that sporting results from the future tend to land at a 95 percent accuracy rate, due to the utterly meaningless nature of professional athletics on deeper planes of the human experience.
I would consider this a reliable blueprint for this year's NFL playoff journey. And you've been warned: SPOILERS AHEAD.
YOUR 2019 PLAYOFF COMBATANTS
And now for what unfurls come the bright lights and white-hot pressure of January:
WILD-CARD WEEKEND WHIP-AROUND
Kansas City Chiefs 37, Buffalo Bills 11: After creaking into the postseason with a 3-4 mark down the stretch, the Bills double as mincemeat in Kansas City. Josh Allen is sacked seven times -- four by a ready-to-party Chris Jones -- and temporarily benched after Tyrann Mathieu takes a hyper-errant lob 87 yards to the house. An early 27-0 lead allows Patrick Mahomes to rest the final quarter-plus in favor of devil-may-care, alpha-dog backup Matt Moore, who brings down the house by throwing a 98-yard catch-and-run score to Mecole Hardman.
Oakland Raiders 30, Houston Texans 24 (OT): The Raiders tumble into a 17-0 pit on the road, but fate turns when Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn -- lining up for a patty-cake, 33-yard field-goal try -- attempts to toss away a wildly botched snap. Fairbairn's ugly lob loops sickly into the air before dribbling into the arms of Oakland's Daryl Worley, who scampers the other way for a Raiders touchdown to stop the bleeding: 17-7. Texans star passer Deshaun Watson scorches the Silver and Black for 401 yards, but Oakland runner Josh Jacobs steals the show with a last-second 41-yard scoring blast that sends the tilt into overtime before the rookie stuns Houston's crowd by ripping off a 71-yard touchdown dash 14 seconds into the fifth period. Video of Jon Gruden ripping off his shirt, Hulk Hogan-style, in the locker room devastates social media platforms for months on end.
Minnesota Vikings 20, New Orleans Saints 10: Well-coached and balanced all season long, the Saints spill into an offseason of pressing questions after birthing a stinkbomb in the Superdome. A pair of early Dalvin Cook scores for the Vikings forces Drew Brees and the Saints to seek out monster plays through the air. Instead, the soon-to-be 41-year-old flinger throws four killer picks before Sean Payton rests him in favor of Teddy Bridgewater. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, finishes 19-of-22 passing without a mistake on the afternoon amid whispers that Minnesota play-caller Kevin Stefanski is next in line to take the vacant Jets coaching job.
Seattle Seahawks 17, Dallas Cowboys 16: Dallas talk radio devolves into nuclear-level vitriol after Cowboys coach Jason Garrett mismanages the clock with his offense driving for a would-be game-winning field-goal try that never happens as precious seconds tick away. (Note: TOMORROW-BOT refused to dig into specifics here, but revealed that team owner Jerry Jones, per NFL Network's Jane Slater, was overheard shouting at a peon: "Get me Payton! Get me Sean on the phone! Pronto, peon!")
DIVISIONAL ROUND RUCKUS
Oakland Raiders 16, New England Patriots 13 (OT): Amid a blustery blizzard in Foxborough, the upstart Raiders flip the switch on hearts everywhere as they improbably unplug Tom Brady and the Patriots in a Mother Nature-dominated tilt capped by TB12's killer strip-sack with less than a minute to go in overtime. Clelin Ferrell's titanic blast of Brady looks and feels like a carbon copy of the hotly contested Charles Woodson takedown that morphed into Tuck Rule legend nearly 18 years ago to the day. A frostbitten, tearstained Gruden is carried off the field by his players, while Brady -- asked if he'll be back in 2020 -- scowls at reporters and utters: "I haven't decided a thing."
Baltimore Ravens 51, Kansas City Chiefs 50: Quickly labeled the greatest playoff game of the 21st century, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes combine for 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in a contest that ends cruelly for Kansas City, as the Ravens, trailing 50-43 with 5:45 remaining, unspool a punishing, clock-chewing march capped by Mark Ingram bursting in for the score. Trailing 50-49, coach John Harbaugh greenlights an ultra-gutsy two-point conversion call -- Ingram again (!) -- leaving Mahomes and the Chiefs without a final shot ... for the second year in a row.
San Francisco 49ers 17, Minnesota Vikings 0: Not every January clash becomes a classic. Kyle Shanahan's Niners look every bit the NFC's top seed in a white-knuckle defensive bump-and-grind that sees San Fran take down Kirk Cousins five times, hold Dalvin Cook to 14 yards on the ground and keep the Vikings from venturing beyond midfield. Niners passer Jimmy Garoppolo's never breaks a sweat, hair-ego intact as he hands off the ball 47 times in a game that wraps within 2 hours and 41 minutes.
Seattle Seahawks 39, Green Bay Packers 33 (2OT): Launching mere seconds after Baltimore and Kansas City's epic clash, the Seahawks and Packers author a double-overtime drama-fest that leaves gridiron fanatics to label the day's action "A SUNDAY FROM THE GODS" -- and it's no hyperbole. Russell Wilson and the 'Hawks erase a 33-13 deficit, scoring 20 points in the final 10:37 of play before Green Bay and Seattle battle through a scoreless initial overtime. First-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur generates attention for refusing to wear a hat or scarf in minus-19 degree conditions. Green Bay faithful wonder if that factored into the Packers inexplicably running the ball on third-and-9 from their own 41 in the second overtime period, minutes before Wilson found Chris Carson on a 61-yard wheel route to the house to end a classic that takes nearly five hours to complete.
CONFERENCE TITLE TUSSLE-BOUTS
Baltimore Ravens 25, Oakland Raiders 19 (OT): Scheduled to ship off to Vegas, the Raiders emerge as an exploding national storyline. Deep-sixing the Patriots in a snowstorm will do that to a team, but the Cinderella act comes crashing down in Baltimore. After mining their way into overtime for a third straight week, Oakland forces the Ravens into a nasty fourth-and-4 situation from midfield with the tilt locked at 19-19. Dice-rolling Baltimore coach John Harbaugh puts his offense back on the field, dialing up the team's Heisman package, featuring Lamar Jackson, backup passer Robert Griffin III and runner Mark Ingram. Oakland stacks the box and appears to have guessed right as Lamar hands the ball off to Ingram on a draw, but the former Alabama star flips the pigskin back to Jackson, who finds Griffin running free down the sideline with nobody closer than a country mile. RG3 waltzes into the end zone to send Baltimore on to the Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks 3, San Francisco 49ers 0: After the Niners and 'Hawks gifted us with a gem back in Week 10 -- and again in Week 17 -- their NFC title clash goes down as one of the more spartan affairs in playoff history, as Levi's Stadium becomes a water-soaked web due to the arrival of TROPICAL STORM GINNY-SUE. The Bay Area is besieged as angry GINNY-SUE dumps relentless agua from above and lashes The Big Bellbottom with gusts topping 63 knots. With football's biggest prize on the line, the Niners can't catch a break, as Jimmy Garoppolo's 93-yard scoring strike to Deebo Samuel is wiped out by an illegal formation gaffe before a 43-yard Matt Breida touchdown with three minutes left is nullified by a chop block. The only score comes when Jason Myers bonks in a 22-yard field goal after missing wind-battered kicks from 19, 26, 32 and 45 yards. "Ginny-Sue wreaked havoc," Niners coach Kyle Shanahan tells reporters. "We tried to pass on her, run on her -- she forbid it."
SUPER BOWL LIV
Seattle Seahawks 40, Baltimore Ravens 33: Baltimore's biggest mistake comes right away, when the Ravens attempt to recreate the Heisman package glory that saw Robert Griffin III seal the AFC title game with his winning catch and dash. This time, Mark Ingram's pitch back to Lamar Jackson floats beyond the quarterback, who snags the bouncing ball and lobs it on the run. It flitters into the arms of Seahawks defender Jadeveon Clowney, who takes it 44 yards for the game's opening score. Lamar makes up for it with 144 yards of poetry on the ground, while Russell Wilson's back-to-back deep strikes to D.K. Metcalf and Josh Gordon tie the showdown at 33-33 with 2:22 remaining.
Fate's cruel kiss then taps the cheek of Ravens center Matt Skura, who mistakenly arcs the ball over Lamar's outstretched hands on a shotgun snap with 0:32 on the clock. From the wilderness again comes Clowney, surging past Skura and Jackson to snatch up the orb and roll untouched into the end zone for his second touchdown of Super Bowl LIV. The Seahawks are champions, Pete Carroll is peppy -- and Jadeveon becomes an American super icon, following up his critically acclaimed role in Michael Mann's Miami Vice: Midnight Waters with an emotionally wrenching performance as KOVAR-9, the half-human/half-droid Force-sensitive lackey from Tatooine's Tosche Station, in Ewan McGregor's OBI-WAN miniseries for Disney+.