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Patrick Mahomes reveals Matt Nagy helped him during the Chiefs pre-draft visit


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before they picked him in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs found a lot to like about then-Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Among the factors in Mahomes’ favor was how he dissected plays flawlessly on a whiteboard for coach Andy Reid and others on the offensive staff during his pre-draft visit to Kansas City.

Now, Mahomes revealed he had the answers to the test, so to speak. Speaking on the latest episode of the “New Heights” podcast hosted by teammate Travis Kelce and Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce that premiered on Thursday, Mahomes said then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy tipped him to the plays Reid would ask him to go through.

Nagy is now the Chiefs’ quarterback coach.

“Of course,” Mahomes said, “I crushed the meeting.”

That year, the Chiefs invited other quarterbacks to Kansas City for pre-draft visits, including then-Clemson Tigers signal-caller Deshaun Watson. But that was more for show. They had a clear favorite in Mahomes.

“I think it was very safe to say that there was a major consensus in our building of who we liked,” Nagy said Thursday. “You put the [Mahomes] tape on, you started watching and you can’t put the clicker down and you just watched more and more and more.”

As for whether he tipped plays to Mahomes so he could ace the whiteboard test for Reid, Nagy said, “Maybe a little bit.”

“Patrick did a hell of a job on the test,” he said. “The coach was giving him some good questions on the plays. And Patrick, he knew what he was doing. He was impressive.”

The Chiefs traded with the Buffalo Bills to go from the 27th spot to the 10th to draft Mahomes. John Dorsey, the Chiefs’ general manager at the time, said afterwards he felt 10 was the sweet spot for Mahomes since it put the Chiefs ahead of other interested teams, including the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.

Mahomes said after the draft he wasn’t certain where he would be selected and thought it might be as late as the second or third round. But he said on the podcast he wanted to go to the Chiefs and told them other teams had said they were interested in drafting him in the first round as well.

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Josh Allen works magic, connects with Gabe Davis for Bill’s TD


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Josh Allen is known for making some amazing throws, and he added another wild one to his collection Thursday to stretch the Buffalo Bills’ lead over the New England Patriots in the second quarter.

On third down from the New England 8-yard line, Allen stepped back in the pocket and quickly scrambled to his right with pressure coming. Allen kept moving as linebacker Mack Wilson Sr. pulled on the back of his jersey, with the quarterback shaking him off to make a throw from the sideline as Wilson fell towards Allen’s feet. The pass into the end zone was a TD for wide receiver Gabe Davis and stretched the Bills’ lead to 17-7. It was Davis’ first catch of the game.

Allen’s time to throw on the touchdown was 6.34 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats. It was Allen’s fifth career passing touchdown taking at least six seconds to throw, tied for second most in the NFL with Russell Wilson over the past five seasons. The only quarterback with more during that span is Patrick Mahomes (9).

On the throw, Allen was 0.3 yards away from the sideline, tied for the closest to the sideline on any completion since NFL Next Gen Stats began tracking players in 2016.

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Follow live: Allen, Bills face AFC East road test at Patriots


Follow live: Allen, Bills face AFC East road test at Patriots

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NFL Week 13 betting notes


1. This is the fifth week ever in which both conference winners from the previous season are home underdogs. Los Angeles is the third reigning Super Bowl champion to be at least a seven-point home underdog. Cincinnati is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games.

2. Tennessee’s eight-game cover streak was snapped last week. Under Mike Vrabel, Tennessee is 15-4 ATS as an underdog of at least four points.

3. In Deshaun Watson’s first start with Cleveland, the Browns (-8) are road favorites of at least a touchdown for the first time since 1995. Their 195 straight road games without being at least a 7-point favorite is the fourth-longest streak in the Super Bowl era (since 1966).

4. Miami is a four-point underdog despite an 8-3 record. Over the past five seasons, teams with at least a .700 winning percentage are 17-6 ATS when getting at least 3.5 points in games in November or later.

5. Tom Brady is just 2-11 ATS in prime-time games since joining Tampa Bay. He is 2-14 ATS in his past 16 prime-time games (both including playoffs).

Season notes

  • Best ATS teams: Tennessee, Cincinnati, New York Giants (all 8-3)

  • Worst ATS team: Los Angeles Rams (2-8-1)

  • Best average cover margin: Dallas (+7.2)

  • Worst average cover margin: Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)

  • Underdogs: 94-75-6 ATS

  • Home teams: 88-86-6 ATS

  • Home underdogs: 38-27-3 ATS

  • 7+ point favourites: 17-25-1 ATS

  • 10+ point favourites: 7-11 ATS

  • Below: 100-78-2

  • Buffalo unders are 8-3 this season, including 6-0 on the road.

  • Buffalo is 0-4-1 ATS in its past five games.

  • New England is 7-2-1 ATS after a loss since the start of last season (3-0-1 ATS this season). Bill Belichick is 62-33-1 ATS following a loss with New England.

  • This is the second time in the past 20 seasons that New England has been a home underdog in a division game. They lost 38-9 as a seven-point home underdog against Buffalo in 2020.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.

  • Atlanta is 1-5 ATS in its past six games after starting 6-0 ATS.

  • Since 2017, Pittsburgh is 5-10-1 ATS on fewer than six days’ rest.

  • Pittsburgh is 3-0 ATS in its past three games against teams with losing records.

  • Russell Wilson is 4-0 ATS in his career as at least a 7.5-point underdog (1-3 SU). He has only been an eight-point underdog once – Seattle lost by five as 9.5-point underdogs in 2018 at the Los Angeles Rams.

  • Baltimore is 0-4 ATS as a home favorite this season (five straight ATS losses dating back to last season). Lamar Jackson is 10-19 ATS as a home favorite including playoffs. Overall, Baltimore is 0-4-1 ATS at home this season.

  • Denver games are 10-1 to the under, the best under percentage in the league. Denver is the first team to go under in 10 of its first 11 games since 2011 (Jacksonville and Miami). In the last 30 seasons, only 2003 Buffalo and 1997 Washington have gone under in 11 of their first 12 games. Seven straight Denver games have gone under.



Joe Fortenbaugh explains how to play the big spread between the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens.

  • Green Bay has covered seven straight meetings. Aaron Rodgers is 22-7 ATS against Chicago including playoffs (11-3 on the road). The last time Green Bay was not at least a four-point favorite was Week 1 of 2019 (+3).

  • Green Bay is 1-6 ATS as a favorite this season with six straight ATS losses. Green Bay is 0-2 outright as a road favorite this season (0-5 ATS, 1-4 SU in past five games as road favorite).

  • Chicago is 0-3 ATS in its past three games.

  • Chicago is 7-16 ATS as an underdog since the start of last season.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.

  • Jacksonville has been a road favorite one time in the past three seasons (Week 1 of 2021 at Houston – lost outright as three-point favorite).

  • Jacksonville has failed to cover its past seven games as a favorite including 0-3 ATS this season and 0-6 ATS since 2020.

  • Detroit has covered four straight games.

  • Detroit is 18-10 ATS under Dan Campbell, tied for the second-best mark in that span. Campbell is 9-3 ATS as a home underdog.

  • Cleveland has not been at least a seven-point road favorite since 1995 (-8). Its 195 straight road games without being at least a seven-point favorite is the fourth-longest streak in the Super Bowl era and the second-longest active streak (New York Jets: 249 straight entering this week, since 1991).

  • Quarterbacks who have not started a game in 500 or more days and are laying at least seven points in their first start after the layoff are 1-6 ATS in the past 25 seasons, including 1-3 outright and ATS in the past 15 seasons.

  • Houston is 7-0 ATS against Cleveland since 2008.

  • Houston is 1-5 ATS in its past six games and 0-3 ATS in its past three games.

  • Cleveland is 8-17 ATS as a favorite under Kevin Stefanski (2-5 ATS as road favorite). Cleveland’s largest favorite role under Stefanski is 6.5 points.

New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings (-3), Sunday at 1 ET

  • New York is 4-1 outright and ATS on the road this season.

  • Minnesota has covered six straight non-conference games (3-0 ATS this season).

  • New York is 5-2 ATS when the line is between +3 and -3 under Robert Saleh (6-2 ATS in all games when not at least a 3.5-point underdog).

  • Minnesota is 8-0 outright as a favorite this season, one of three undefeated teams as a favorite (Washington: 4-0, New York Jets: 2-0). Minnesota is 3-0-1 ATS as a favorite of 1-3 points and 1-3 ATS as a favorite of four or more points.

  • Washington is 6-0-1 ATS in its past seven games, including 4-0 ATS on the road in that span. Washington is 5-0-1 ATS this season with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. He is 7-0-1 ATS in his past eight starts and 13-9-1 ATS in his career including playoffs.

  • Washington is 4-0 ATS as a favorite this season, with six straight covers dating back to last season. Washington is 4-0 ATS as a road favorite since the start of last season.

  • New York is 6-1 ATS as an underdog this season.

  • Unders are 12-0-1 the past 13 times New York has been a home underdog.

  • Daniel Jones is 4-1 outright and ATS against Washington.

  • New York is 3-0 ATS after a loss this season.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.

  • Philadelphia is 5-1 ATS at home this season. Its past five home games went over the total. Tennessee is 5-1 ATS on the road with five straight covers.

  • Mike Vrabel is 15-4 ATS as an underdog of at least four points including playoffs (13-6 outright).

  • Tennessee is 8-1 ATS in its past nine games, including 4-1 ATS as an underdog in that span. Its eight-game cover streak was snapped last week against Cincinnati.

  • Tennessee is 15-10-1 ATS after a loss under Mike Vrabel (9-4 ATS since 2020).

Seattle Seahawks (-8) at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday at 4:05 ET

  • Geno Smith has never been more than a 5.5-point favorite in his career, and he’s never been more than a three-point favorite on the road.

  • Los Angeles is the third reigning Super Bowl champion to be at least a seven-point home underdog (1987 New York: +10; 1968 Green Bay: +9). This is the fifth time both conference champions from the previous season are home underdogs in the same week (first since Week 17 of 2020).

  • Los Angeles has not been a seven-point home underdog since Week 17 of 2016 (+7 vs Arizona). It has not been a bigger home underdog since Week 11 of 2014 (+9 vs Denver; won outright).

  • Los Angeles is a league-worst 2-8-1 ATS this season, including 0-4-1 ATS as an underdog, 1-5 ATS at home, and 0-5 ATS against teams with winning records.

  • Los Angeles is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings including playoffs. Sean McVay is 7-4 ATS against Pete Carroll.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.



Joe Fortenbaugh likes teasing the spread and taking the Seahawks to cover against the Rams.

  • Tua Tagovailoa is 18-11-1 ATS in his career (8-4-1 ATS as underdog). He is 7-2-1 ATS as an underdog of at least 3.5 points (6-4 outright).

  • Kyle Shanahan is 9-17-2 ATS as a home favorite. However, he is 6-1 ATS in his past seven games in that role (3-1 ATS this season). His past six games as a home favorite went under the total.

  • Over the past five seasons, teams with at least a .700 winning percentage are 17-6 ATS when getting at least 3.5 points in games in November or later. They are 15-4 ATS when removing Week 17 games.

  • Cincinnati is 8-1 ATS in its past nine games.

  • Cincinnati has covered six straight games as an underdog dating back to last season including playoffs.

  • Kansas City is 49-27-1 ATS on the road under Andy Reid.

  • Kansas City is 1-6 ATS in conference games this season.

  • Kansas City road games are 10-3 to the over since the start of last season, going over in eight of their past nine games.

  • Cincinnati games are 5-0 to the under when facing teams with winning records.

  • This is the fifth time both conference champions from the previous season are home underdogs in the same week (first since Week 17 of 2020).

  • Los Angeles is 5-1 ATS on the road this season.

  • Las Vegas has covered three straight games as an underdog. Las Vegas is 3-1 ATS as an underdog this season and 2-5 ATS as a favorite. This is their first game as a home underdog since last year’s Week 18 matchup against Los Angeles (Las Vegas won by three as three-point home underdogs).

  • Justin Herbert is 13-8 ATS in his career on the road but only 4-5 ATS as a road favorite.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.

  • Dallas is an NFL-best 20-8 ATS since the start of last season, including 14-5 ATS as a favorite.

  • Indianapolis games are 9-3 to the under this season (5-1 on road; 6-0 vs teams with winning records).

  • Double-digit favorites are 0-4 ATS in prime-time games since Week 8. Double-digit favorites are 19-28-1 ATS in prime-time games over the past 10 seasons.

  • Indianapolis has not been a double-digit underdog since Week 5 of 2019. That week, Indianapolis upset Kansas City 19-13 as an 11-point underdog.



Tyler Fulghum says he’s laying the points with the Cowboys in a home matchup vs. the Colts.

  • Tom Brady is 2-14 ATS in his past 16 primetime games including playoffs. He is 2-11 ATS including playoffs with Tampa Bay.

  • New Orleans is 0-5 ATS on the road this season.

  • Tampa Bay is 0-4-1 ATS after a loss this season.

  • Tampa Bay games are 9-2 to the under this season.

  • Unders in division games are 32-20-1 this season.

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Patrick Peterson denies ‘beef’ with Kyler Murray, has texted QB


EAGAN, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson denied Thursday that he has a “beef” with Kyler Murray, saying he meant no disrespect by his recent comments and has reached out to the Arizona Cardinals quarterback in hopes of talking through their back-and-forth of the past week.

Peterson said he had not yet heard back from Murray, but looks forward to helping him grow as a player.

The exchange between the two began Wednesday when Peterson said on his “All Things Covered” podcast that “Kyler Murray don’t care about nobody but Kyler Murray.” Murray then responded in a Twitter post, saying the characterization “wasn’t true.” He added that Peterson should call him if he wanted to be a mentor and not simply “drag me so your podcast can grow….”

On Thursday, Peterson said “I don’t have any beef with Kyler Murray.” He disputed that he had “disrespected” Murray and said his comments were based on body-language observations that anyone could make.

“What I meant by my comment was when you’re a franchise quarterback you have to carry yourself a certain way,” said Peterson, who was teammates with Murray for one season with the Cardinals in 2020. “So if you’re having bad body language, pouting, moping on the sideline, what type of energy do you think feeds off to your teammates?

“That’s what I meant about Kyler. He cares about himself because he’s not putting the team first. When you make a bad throw, and you come off to the sideline, you’re dropping your shoulders, how do you think the defense feels? If our starting quarterback don’t have any energy, no fire, that we can win this game, how can we? That’s what I meant about Kyler caring about Kyler. I didn’t mean any disrespect, in any fashion or form. And I might not be his mentor, but these are the things, tips, that can help him be a better football player in the long run.”

Peterson said he did not have Murray’s number before this week, but got one from a former teammate. He texted Murray but had not received a reply by Thursday afternoon.

“I do look forward to talking to him because I see a ton of talent in him,” Peterson said. “And those mannerisms are alarming. I’m just saying something that most people may be afraid to tell him. It’s no secret. Everybody sees it. You see it every time they’re on television. You see Kyler Murray pouting. Cursing out the head coach, calling out the offensive scheme. I didn’t say that. He did.”

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Bengals’ Hayden Hurst responds to dis by Chiefs’ Justin Reid


CINCINNATI — Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst definitely knows who Chiefs safety Justin Reid is.

On Thursday, Hurst responded to Reid’s comments about shutting down Hurst in Sunday’s game between Kansas City and the Bengals at Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium. Initially, Reid struggled to identify Hurst, mistaking the tight end for Cincinnati wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Hurst didn’t offer many laughs at Reid’s take.

“You can pick anybody in this locker room, but I feel like I’m probably the last person you want to talk s— about,” Hurst said.

A day earlier, Reid spoke to Kansas City’s WDAF-TV about Cincinnati’s offense. Initially, he mistook Hurst for Rams tight end Tyler Higbee before mistaking Hurst for Higgins.

“He’s a very talented receiver,” Reid said. “More of a finesse type of guy, not the best blocker. I’m going to lock him down, you know what I mean? Straight up.”

Hurst, who signed with the Bengals on a one-year deal last offseason, said the barbs were uncharted territory for him.

“That’s definitely the first guy who’s going to attempt to cover me that’s said about me or to me or I guess whoever he thought he was talking about,” Hurst said. “Don’t really care.”

Reid later went on Twitter and clarified that he meant Hurst but doubled down on his comments as Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and defensive tackle DJ Reader chimed in as well.

Bengals safety Jessie Bates compared the situation to earlier in the season when current Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill called out Cincinnati cornerback Eli Apple before their Week 4 meeting that the Bengals won.

Bates adds that Reid should be fortunate the chatter didn’t involve more of Cincinnati’s top offensive players. “I’ve been able to experience it, being on the same team as them in training camp,” Bates said. “I know what it gets like when people start talking to those guys. I just hope they’re ready for it. I know our guys will [be].”

In his debut season with Cincinnati, Hurst has become one of quarterback Joe Burrow’s most reliable options. He is third on the team in catches (46) and receiving yards (388). He also has two touchdowns on the season.

Hurst said he wasn’t fazed by what Reid had to say about the team’s offense.

“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” Hurst said. “You can say whatever you really want to say about me. [I] really don’t give a s—. I’m who I am. On Sunday at 4:30, it’s going to be pretty fun.”

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Bills pass rusher Von Miller put on IR with knee injury


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Buffalo Bills have placed pass rusher Von Miller on injured reserve with a knee injury, hours before the team’s Thursday night game against the New England Patriots.

Miller will miss at least the next four games after suffering lateral meniscus damage to his right knee, per Miller, during the team’s win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. The team’s hope, per general manager Brandon Beane in a pool report, is that he will be able to return this season.

“He’s been doing treatment and trying to rehab it,” Beane said. “We don’t want to rush him back, and he’s a competitor. That’s why we love him. That’s why he’s so great. The competitor in him — if he could wheel it out there tonight, he would do it. We just think in talking to the medical people that the best decision right now is to give this time, and that gives him the best opportunity to help us down the stretch.”

The Bills, who are 0-2 in the division to start the season, are beginning a three-game stretch against three AFC East opponents. The earliest Miller could return is Week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Knowing that Von is still around, and his personality is still around, that’s just as good as him being out there on the field if you ask me,” defensive tackle Ed Oliver said.

Although the defense will be without the team’s sack leader in Miller for a key stretch, defensive ends AJ Epenesa and Greg Rousseau are set to make their returns from ankle injuries against the Patriots.

Miller said on his podcast Tuesday that he was hopeful he would be able to return for the team’s game against the New York Jets next week, but Beane said putting him on injured reserve Thursday allows Thursday night’s game to count for his games missed.

“I do have some lateral meniscus damage, and it’s going to have to be addressed,” Miller said on the podcast. “But I do feel like I can, you know, play through that, so I’m just gonna wait a little bit, and let the swelling go down for about seven to 10 days and, hopefully, right before the Jets game I will be back.”

Miller ranks third in the NFL in quarterback pressures (38) behind Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (46) and Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (39). No other Bills player has more than 12 pressures, with Miller’s 216 pressure gap the largest in the NFL this season. Miller leads the Bills in sacks (eight), pass rush win rate (23.7%) and pressure percentage (14.6%).

“If I’m out there, you know that I’m ready to go and I feel totally confident,” Miller said.

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Giants, Cowboys or Bills – Where will Odell Beckham Jr. country?


The Odell Beckham Jr. derby is heating up, with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants believed to be at the front of the pack. But don’t count out the Buffalo Bills.

Beckham was removed from an American Airlines flight on Sunday, although Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the incident will have no bearing on his future with the team. His visits with the Giants and Bills remain unaffected, as well.

Beckham is scheduled to meet with the Bills on Friday, although the Giants and the Cowboys seem most likely to land the coveted free agent. The two division rivals are pitted against each other off the field after the Cowboys dominated the Giants in the second half on Thanksgiving.

Jones has already had a conversation with Beckham. He said it was a “great meeting.” The Cowboys, who have a visit scheduled with the receiver on Monday, have been publicly recruiting Beckham. They are considered the “favorites,” according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebacker Micah Parsons have all made their pitches.

The Giants are expected to meet with Beckham beginning Thursday. It’s a getting-to-know-him session for the new regime. The Giants have perhaps been working more behind the scenes with two of his close friends, Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard, on the roster. Barkley and Shepard attended Beckham’s lavish California birthday bash during their bye week.

Beckham is believed to be close to full health after tearing the ACL in his left knee in the Super Bowl win with the Los Angeles Rams in February. It has been nine months since the injury, and he is expected to sign with a new team in the next few weeks.

The question is where.

Why Beckham will sign with Dallas

If it is about winning, how can it not be the Cowboys? They swept the Giants this season. Which team is poised for a better postseason run? The Cowboys. Which quarterback would he rather have? Prescott. The Giants might be able to offer him a larger role as a receiver from the get go, considering what the Cowboys have in CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, but the Cowboys have more going for them in every other department.

From Jones to Prescott, Elliott, Lamb and Parsons, the Cowboys have put a full-court recruiting pressure on Beckham that would make Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari proud. Normally Jones is quiet when it comes to free agents for fear of impacting the competitive nature of the negotiations. He has not been shy about his desire to add Beckham. — Todd Archer

Why Beckham makes the Cowboys a contender

This question can’t really be answered fully without knowing just how healthy he is and what type of condition he is in. But if all that checks out, then he gives the Cowboys another option on the outside. Should something happen to Lamb or Gallup, they would have a pretty good insurance policy.

The Cowboys are a run-first team with Elliott and Tony Pollard, but there will come a time when they will need to throw the ball to win, especially in the important games down the stretch and into the playoffs. Beckham showed last season with the Rams that he can learn a system quickly and have success. But there has to be a word of caution because of his knee. Gallup tore an ACL a month or so before Beckham and has needed time to round into form. Can Beckham really be, well, Beckham in short order? — Archer

Likelihood Beckham re-signs with Dallas in 2023

I guess this is an assumption that he will accept a one-year offer as a rental player. That might be fine with the Cowboys, considering how tight they could be against the 2023 salary cap. But if it is not, then the Cowboys will likely have to move around quite a bit of money to make it all work. Prescott’s cap figure next year is $49.13 million and the only way the Cowboys can gain relief would be to extend his contract.

They will have financial decisions to make on Tyron Smith and Elliott, while also trying to keep Pollard, tight end Dalton Schultz, safety Donovan Wilson and 17 others who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after this season. They can also open extension talks for the first time with Lamb and cornerback Trevon Diggs. The Cowboys had interest in acquiring Brandin Cooks at the trade deadline from the Houston Texans, but one of the hang-ups was the $18 million he was guaranteed in 2023. If Beckham is looking for top-end money, then this might not work, or would require the Cowboys to get out of their financial comfort zone with free agents. — Archer



The “Sunday NFL Countdown” crew breaks down who has the best bet at acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. and the value he’ll bring to that particular franchise.

Why Beckham will sign with New York

Well, it’s New York. The Big Apple. The place where Beckham was drafted No. 12 overall in 2014, burst onto the scene and made that breathtaking catch against, you know, the same Cowboys that want to sign him. This means something to Beckham. Being on the same team with Barkley and Shepard (even if he’s on injured reserve) is an enticing proposition. They remain two of his closest friends. But as Barkley said recently, returning to New York, the place where Beckham began his career and reached stardom, means something. It would allow Beckham to remain in the spotlight and handle unfinished business.

He admittedly played the worst game of his career in his only playoff game with the Giants in a 2016 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “I think it would be a great story to come back to a place that you were at before and continue to help build success,” Barkley said. The Giants star running back told ESPN after Thursday’s game that he speaks to Beckham regularly. They talked as recently as last week. Beckham also maintained an amicable relationship with Giants ownership (John Mara and Steve Tisch) despite the messy 2018 divorce. His animosity was always directed at former general manager Dave Gettleman. — Jordan Raanan

Why he makes the Giants a contender

The Giants’ need at the position is well-documented. They’re throwing borderline practice squads out there on a weekly basis. Any weapon would be a boost to their offense and for quarterback Daniel Jones. But what Beckham can actually bring to the table this season is unknown. This is something Barkley has repeatedly said — Barkley himself needed a lot of time to get back to his former self after tearing an ACL.

It’s the second time Beckham has torn that same ACL. Beckham is 30 years old and hasn’t taken a single practice rep this season. Not in the spring, summer or fall. His range of outcomes when he does return varies greatly. Still, it’s hard to imagine he’s not an NFL-caliber receiver. Even if he’s just a contributor, the Giants would take that. It’s safe to say he can be an equal or No. 2 alongside Darius Slayton by default. The Giants just don’t have much else at the position. — Raanan

Likelihood he re-signs with New York in 2023

Everything I’m hearing is that Beckham wants more than a one-year deal. He wants some guaranteed money moving forward. Deals in the range of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s Chris Godwin and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Mike Williams have signed have been mentioned. That doesn’t seem realistic, especially with the Giants. If anything, general manager Joe Schoen has been extremely disciplined financially this season.

He hasn’t made a single signing during this season that wasn’t for the veteran minimum. One of his primary goals was to get the Giants salary cap in order this year and for the future. Putting any sort of significant money into the future with Beckham doesn’t seem to fit what he’s been doing. But from the start, there has been talk of Beckham going elsewhere for the remainder of this season and landing with the Giants next year. Maybe that is a more likely scenario than Beckham signing there now. — Raanan

Why Beckham will sign with Buffalo

Josh Allen is a good place to start. Playing with the fifth-year quarterback has been part of the appeal for many of the team’s additions in the past year. The Bills roster is one of the best in football, even with the offense’s recent dip in performance in the five-game stretch since the bye week. They have shown an ability to win close games and still have an 8-3 record, despite not playing their best football. There is also plenty of opportunity to have a big role in the offense with the Bills hurting at wide receiver (Jamison Crowder, Marquez Stevenson and Jake Kumerow are all currently on injured reserve).

The team’s wide receiver depth behind Stefon Diggs also hasn’t quite played up to the level that the Bills would like, so adding someone like Beckham would give him plenty of opportunities to be an integral part of a solid offensive group.

And what’s better than joining a team with your friends? Pass-rusher Von Miller has been publicly recruiting Beckham to join the Bills for months and is certainly also doing so behind the scenes. The pair won the Super Bowl together with the Rams last season and Miller’s word could certainly go a long way. Beckham’s former LSU teammate, cornerback Tre’Davious White, has also sent Beckham, “probably 2,700 Buffalo Bills emojis.” — Alaina Getzenberg

Why he makes Buffalo a contender

The Bills are a contender without Beckham, but adding a receiver of his caliber just makes this team that much stronger. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said earlier this month that, “if we think he can help this team, we’d be crazy not to at least look into it.”

He would not only add to the Bills’ receiving game as a target for Allen, but he would also take some of the attention away from Diggs, who is on pace to set career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns this season. As a team, the Bills have the third-most drops in the NFL (20) with Gabe Davis (six) and Isaiah McKenzie (four) combining for 10 of those. Davis, the team’s No. 2 receiver, has dropped 10% of his targets. More consistency and reliability at the position will go a long way in helping Allen, and while Beckham’s production hasn’t been quite to the level it was earlier in his career, he did not drop any of his 48 regular-season targets with the Rams last season.

The Bills don’t need Beckham to come in and be a No. 1 receiver, they have Diggs for that. But this receiver group has been a weakness at times, and adding someone with his talent and experience could be the boost the offense needs. — Getzenberg

Likelihood he re-signs with Buffalo in 2023

It’s certainly within the realm of possibilities. The Bills have most of their key players locked down for the foreseeable future and are looking to become contenders for the Super Bowl on a consistent basis. This is a team that is built just for that. It should be an appealing place for Beckham to settle in and play for over multiple seasons, especially after hearing about Miller’s experience.

The question here could come down to how much Beckham is looking to be paid and the extent to which the Bills can trust his ability to stay healthy over a longer period. Beckham has only had two seasons in which he played in every regular-season game.

Buffalo has multiple starters set to hit free agency that have been key contributors to the defense this year in linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer. The Bills also currently have the lowest available cap space in the league for 2023, per ESPN’s roster management, although that is subject to change. Beane has referenced wanting to build a team that is consistently making Super Bowl runs, not just putting all the chips in one basket (or season). There could be a fit here, as the Bills could use him in 2023, but it’s not a necessity for the future that the Bills sign him long-term as help could also be found elsewhere. — Getzenberg

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Deshaun Watson’s focus on football, deflects other queries


BEREA, Ohio — In Deshaun Watson’s first interview in nearly four months, the Cleveland Browns quarterback refused to answer any non-football questions.

“I understand that you guys have a lot of questions,” Watson said Thursday. “But with my legal team and my clinical team, there’s only football questions I can really address at this time.”

Watson just finished serving an 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, on massage therapists.

He has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Two civil lawsuits remain outstanding, including one filed on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Watson settled 23 of the other lawsuits that had been filed against him.

As part of a settlement between the NFL and the NFLPA, Watson also had to pay a $5 million fine and undergo a mandatory treatment program.

“I was just trying whatever I could do to play football in 2022,” he said when asked why he agreed to the 11-game suspension. “Most of the settlement stuff with the NFL was mostly my agency and legal team. I had no control. My main focus was doing everything I needed to do to play this year.”

Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year.

In his last previous interview, in August, Watson again denied any wrongdoing and said people hadn’t been interested in hearing his side of the story. When asked Thursday whether he’s still interested in telling his story at some point, Watson said, “who knows what the future holds.”

Watson also declined to say what, if anything, he had learned from the league-mandated counselling.

“That’s more in that phase of clinical and legal stuff,” he said. “I’ve been advised to stay away from that and keep that personal. … I’m focusing on football. That’s my main focus is football and preparing to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns so I can execute the game plan to try to get a win this Sunday.”

Watson’s return against his former team, the Houston Texans, will mark exactly 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game (with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021).

The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round draft picks. Cleveland then signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.

Earlier this week, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented 25 of the women who filed lawsuits against Watson, said about 10 of his clients were planning to attend Sunday’s game with him.

“They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter,” Buzbee said.

Watson said he’s “not worried” about the atmosphere he will encounter in Houston.

“Like I said, I’m focusing on just being the starting quarterback and executing the game plan,” he said. “That’s my main focus.”

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Inside Justin Jefferson’s record-breaking, physics-defying rise with the Minnesota Vikings


HE RUNS DOWNFIELD as if traveling on grooves. He reaches full speed within two strides, his feet like stones skipping across a flat lake, his hips swerving in and out of cuts without betraying his intent. Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson is a storm that feels far away until it’s suddenly overhead. Defenders must feel like they’re trying to cover a cloud.

There’s a word for the way Jefferson moves on a football field, and it’s a word that isn’t normally associated with a sport that revels in its brutality. But watch this man long enough — the edge-of-a-cliff stops, the strides unchanging even as the ball nears, the head remaining on the same flat plane through his route — and only one word spreads its arms wide enough to capture the nature of the experience: elegant.

Watching him run is like thumbing through a flipbook. The 9-2 Vikings are running away with the NFC North, and Jefferson is on his way to breaking or at least challenging several NFL milestones. He’s already the all-time leader in receiving yards for the first three seasons, and with 1,232 yards through 11 games, he’s got an outside shot at becoming the league’s first 2,000-yard receiver. He was the first to amass 3,000 yards in his first two seasons, and he and Michael Thomas share the record for most receptions (196) in the first two seasons of an NFL career. But the statistics are just a litany of the mundane. They ignore the visceral moments, the way the eye is drawn to the electric, defibrillator-paddle jolt of his talents.

“Justin, man: He just different,” says his older brother Rickey, one of three Jefferson brothers who played at LSU. “He low-key defies the laws of physics.”

Any attempt to get Justin to explain what he does or how he does it elicits laughter, or more precisely, giggles. He talks about drive and hard work and how he’s always been doubted and dismissed as the little brother in the family. He’s 23, and in many ways, an old soul, in other ways, still a kid. He sometimes misses his Thursday appointment with the local media because he has to leave the practice facility to go home and let his dogs out of his condo. The excuse is so disarming nobody bothers to complain. When he laughs, and it is often, he has an endearing habit of leaning forward and ducking his head, as if trying to get closer to the joke.

“He has such a genuineness to him,” says first-year Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. “When you engage with him it’s always reciprocated. He’s got that great smile and that charismatic personality that all his teammates really love and respect. But, like every great player, when they step between the lines there’s something inside them that comes out.”

It’s impossible to identify the best receivers in the NFL by physical characteristics. They’re all fast and strong and agile. The best operate on a different frequency, one only they can hear. Jefferson, who flatly states he believes he is the best receiver in the league, says what separates him is his ability to make a play from anywhere — slot, wide, either side of the field — even when double- or triple-teamed.

To further define that ability, I asked legendary receiver coach Jerry Sullivan, 78, who became Jefferson’s mentor and personal coach after working as a consultant and offensive analyst during Jefferson’s first two seasons at LSU. Sullivan spent more than 25 years in the NFL coaching some of the best ever, including Isaac Bruce and Larry Fitzgerald. He should know.

“Well, I’ve got a word for you,” Sullivan says.

A few seconds pass; I fear we’ve been disconnected.

Sudden,” he says, loudly. “The word for Justin is sudden.”

It’s a nebulous concept, but you’ve seen the catch, right? We’ve all seen the catch. It’s been replayed and retweeted and re-examined so many times it’s burned into the retinas. It’s November 13 against the Bills, fourth and 18, the Vikings down by four with two minutes left, and Kirk Cousins does the only responsible thing: He throws the ball in the general vicinity of Jefferson.

“The crazy thing is, we’ve talked about this, bro,” Rickey Jefferson says. “We’ve talked about him having that defining-moment catch. Before every season we talk about it. He’d say, ‘I got to get that one-handed catch.’ And I’d say, ‘Yeah, you got to get that catch that defines you. There’s no way you shouldn’t.'”

Cousins’ pass was overthrown, a desperate heave headed directly for Buffalo defensive back Cam Lewis. But Jefferson was close enough to try, so he leaped backward, his body nearly horizontal. He swam backward in midair, his right hand on the meat of the ball, and pulled it out of Lewis’s hands. When the play untangled, Jefferson rolled off the ground with the ball, the only human alive who didn’t seem astonished.

“It’s like poetry,” Rickey says. “Fourth and 18 – the significance of that being his number. Against a Super Bowl team, game on the line. At that moment, he establishes himself as the best receiver in the NFL. I can say that, and I’d like him to be as humble as possible, but you’ve got to know who you are.”

The catch was suddenness in summary form. A human feat that seemed impossible seconds earlier no longer was, and we were left to clear room for what was previously unimaginable. There’s something profound about seeing art emerge from chaos. It’s the reason we watch, for those moments of clarity, of beauty, of a human body doing something it’s not supposed to be able to do.

ONE OF THE first assignments O’Connell gave himself after becoming head coach of the Vikings was to introduce himself to Jefferson. In preparation for his interview, he watched hours of Jefferson tape and grew more and more eager to coach him. Following O’Connell’s introductory press conference, he and Jefferson met via video call, and Jefferson eventually got around to asking the question that burns in his soul:

“So: How does Cooper Kupp get so open?”

O’Connell, who coached Kupp for two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator, could barely contain his excitement. Coaches love this kind of question, the way it conveys so many attributes: drive, competitiveness, football savvy. And — let’s not forget this: the way it acknowledges the coach’s role in making great players even greater.

“Do you want the real answer?” O’Connell asked. When Jefferson said he did, O’Connell said, “He’s able to line up and play any spot on the field. He knows exactly what to do in any concept we call — not only what to do, but how to apply pressure to the defense.”

“I want to do that, too,” Jefferson said.

“It’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of time,” O’Connell said. “It’s going to take a commitment to learning things much differently than most X receivers do.”

O’Connell finishes telling this story and anticipates the next question before it’s asked.

“How has it worked out?” he asks. “He’s embraced it all. He’s such a unique player, and he realizes the possibilities are endless. I coach Justin maybe harder than anyone on the team, because of how engaging he is and the expectations he has for himself. But he’s different, and you have to coach him differently because of that. You have to be careful not to overcoach him — that could lead to him being more rigid or boxed in. You want him to have the freedom to do the unique things he can do.”

Jefferson peppers our conversation with glowing references to O’Connell. It’s KO this and KO that. O’Connell looks down sheepishly and says, “I’m the same. I absolutely love him. He’s one of my favorites of anyone I’ve been around.” Jefferson played his first two seasons for noted martinet Mike Zimmer, a man Jefferson admires but says, “Zim was an older coach so he didn’t believe in connecting with his players and having a relationship. KO’s different. He’s younger, and he was a player, and he understands how a season should go.”

O’Connell’s approach immediately diverged from Zimmer’s. During training camp, O’Connell invited Jefferson to his office for a conversation, which is how he learned that Justin Jefferson — top five receiver in the NFL, two-time Pro Bowler, most popular Viking by far — had not only never been to the head coach’s office but didn’t have any idea where it was.

Presented with this, O’Connell fidgets a little and coughs out a mirthless laugh. “The first time I invited him, I might have had to give him directions,” he says. Jefferson says, “Yeah, I didn’t know where the office was. It’s crazy.”

The Vikings’ facility is, to be somewhat fair to Zimmer, a sprawling tangle of glass and steel with no discernible flow. Even the simplest route entails treks down tall glass hallways and up vast staircases and through at least two security doors. There appears to be no direct route to anything, and navigating it without an experienced guide feels like it could result in the need for an extraction unit. Perhaps, in Zimmer’s estimation, Jefferson was considered too valuable to risk the journey.

But Zimmer was a huge proponent of defense and an equally huge opponent of frivolity, in all its insidious forms: locker-room music, locker-room games, pretty much anything that took place outside the parameters of football and the preparation for football. Fun was something you did on your own time. O’Connell is 37, decidedly New School, and he sees no benefit in adding tension to the unavoidable drudgery of a 17-game season. There’s music at practice and in the locker room, and he describes his philosophy like this: “We try to emphasize the positive aspects of getting to come to work every day, and I want everyone to know I’m in it with them.”

Jefferson is, to be honest, a bit boring in a way that coaches and teammates love. “He likes ball, and he likes being around his family,” Sullivan says. “I tell people if you call Justin at 11 o’clock at night and say, ‘We’re going to play some touch football,’ he’d say, ‘I’ll be right there.'” Rickey, a bit more colorfully, says, “That’s our life — ballin’. That’s always been our life. We talk ball. We live ball. That’s us.” During the Vikings’ bye week in late October, Justin, his oldest brother, Jordan, and I sat in the swanky Soho House West Hollywood, with swells making deals all around us, the heat emanating through the windows, everything out there – Hollywood and Beverly Hills in the foreground, the skyline of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the entire world in the background. It seemed to serve as some sort of metaphor for what lay ahead for Justin.

He wore sweats, pristine Jordans and a diamond necklace with a large airplane pendant. (His nickname: Jets.) He smiled a lot and ate two entrees hunching hard toward the table and laughing at the idea of a Soho House opening in his hometown of St. Rose, Louisiana. When I ask him the agenda for his L.A. trip — lining up business, maybe, or meeting with representatives from his growing list of national endorsement deals — he says, “Nah, none of that. Just here to get some sun.”

There is Justin, the guy who lives with his brother and heads home at lunch to let his dogs out, and there is Jets, the grill-wearing, dance-creating entertainer whose sway on the culture is evident every time a 12-year-old hits the Griddy after making a free throw or acing a test. There are two entities, public and private, and it strikes me as being the difference between a face on a screen and a human being in the world.

JUSTIN JEFFERSON STAYED in bed and cried on the morning of signing day of his senior year at Destrehan High School. “One of the toughest days of my life,” he says. He can be found in the photographs of two other signing days, Jordan’s and Rickey’s, standing in the background, beaming. For his own, he stayed home.

Justin was not a coveted recruit; ESPN at one point had him as a zero-star prospect, and one site ranked him as the 308th-best receiver in his graduating class. But like much of the recruiting world, the stars and rankings are misleading. They’re based largely on scholarship offers, and Justin’s academic issues stemming from a lost freshman year made him ineligible to sign until he qualified academically, or as he puts it, “I had to get my books straight.”

He had offers from Nicholls State, University of Louisiana and Tulane, and one promise from Ed Orgeron at LSU. “Coach O got a feel for who he is,” Jordan Jefferson says. “You have two brothers who played in the program, we know you can play and we’re just waiting on you.” Orgeron held a scholarship, and Justin spent the summer boosting his grades — “I even had to take French,” he says — under his mother’s watchful eye. “Stressful,” Elaine says of that time. “Very stressful.”

Justin sees it, from his current viewpoint, as karmic. “Who knows if I would have gone to LSU if I had my grades right?” he asks. “I didn’t get into the ‘Oh, my brothers went to LSU so I’m going to LSU.’ I wanted to go to a school that was best for me. If I had that GPA and got all of those big offers, who knows if I would have gone to LSU? That’s why I feel God planned it to make me who I am today.”

He arrived on the practice field in Baton Rouge three days into fall practice, about eight weeks after the other scholarship freshman, with no idea of where to be but a ferocious desire to get there as fast as possible. “Running around trying to do the right thing,” Sullivan says, “but having no idea where to go.” He wore No. 32 and weighed about 175 pounds. Many of his teammates and some of the LSU coaches assumed he was a walk-on. Something about Jefferson caught Sullivan’s eye, though, and he turned to another coach and said, “You see that kid right there? He’s got something. He could be really good.”

The coach, surprised, asked Sullivan how he knew.

“He’s got what you look for,” Sullivan said. “He cuts with the same fluidity he runs with. His feet don’t get choppy at the end of the route. It always looks the same.”

Sensing the coach remained unconvinced, Sullivan said, “And when you’ve been at it for 25 years, you just know.”

Following that first practice, Sullivan put an arm around Jefferson and said, “You don’t know who I am, but if you work at this, you’ve got a chance to be really good.”

John and Elaine had dropped Justin off on campus that morning, and after that first practice John called Justin to see how it went. He sensed the excitement in his son’s voice the moment he picked up.

“Dad, this old, gray-haired guy pulled me aside and told me I’ve got ‘it’,” Justin said. “He said if I work hard and keep my head straight, I’ll be out in three years.”

Jefferson didn’t catch a pass as a freshman, but he caught 165 of them over the next two seasons and won a national championship in 2019. Sullivan’s prophecy came true.

“We never would have dreamed he would blow up into what he did,” says Greg Boyne, who coached all three Jeffersons as the offensive coordinator at Destrehan High School. “When he went to LSU, we were just hoping he’d get on the field. And then after a while we realized, ‘Damn, little Justin’s pretty good.'”

SUMMER HAS RUN away to hide, seeming to drag fall away with it, and the temperature hovers around freezing as the sun begins to drop on an early November day in Minneapolis. Cameras rolling, Justin and Jordan play catch in a parking lot after the Cover Story photo shoot, tossing the ball slowly, from about 30 feet apart. The moment admittedly lacks certain organic elements, but there’s an ease between the two that makes the simple act of throwing and catching a football feel almost sacramental.

This is their bond, their language, something Justin has been doing as long as he’s had memories. He and Jordan and Rickey in the vacant lot next door to their home in St. Rose, their father John either participating or sitting in a lawn chair watching with their mother Elaine, the boys throwing the ball and arguing and laughing. (“Every time we’d play and he’d lose — man, you talk about crying,” Rickey says. “Not that he’s a crybaby; he just really likes to win.”) They remember Justin at 2 years old trying over and over to throw a tennis ball over the house; Justin at 2, shooting on a 10-foot hoop and going through layup lines at Jordan’s AAU games; Justin at 4 beginning to head over to the lot, just him and his football, running routes, throwing passes to himself, his own play-by-play the soundtrack to his childhood. Eventually Jordan was the starting quarterback at LSU, Rickey was a high school star on his way to becoming a starting safety at LSU, and Justin was an elementary-school Pee Wee phenom on his way to something bigger than all of them.

“I remember my hands used to be stinging in pain, just from trying to catch the ball,” Justin says. “I used to stand like 15, 20 yards away, and that junk used to hurt so much.”

“But you used to catch it,” Jordan says. “Hand-eye coordination. Nice grip on the ball. And like we always said, ‘If you can catch this ball…”

Justin joins in, deepening his voice to mimic his older brother and finish the mantra. “…you can catch any ball in the country.”

They both laugh, Justin more eagerly than Jordan.

“How old were you?” Justin asks.

“Eighteen, 19, 20,” Jordan says. Left unsaid: and the starting quarterback at LSU.

“I was 8, 9, 10,” Justin says, laughing like it’s the first time it’s occurred to him.

“There was a big difference,” Jordan says, “but like Mom always said, ‘You gotta look after each other.'”

I ask Jordan if he and Rickey ever went easy on Justin, and the look he gives me immediately makes me want to take it back.

“Never,” he says. “He wasn’t going to get better if we went easy on him.”

They understand the preciousness of the gift, and the need to foster it. Jordan lives with Justin in Minneapolis; Rickey runs much of the business side; John and Elaine travel to nearly every game. The brothers haven’t been where Justin is, but they’ve been close enough to see it and dream it, which makes them intent on protecting it.

“We all played a significant role in the development of the others,” Rickey says. “Jordan was good, and then there were whispers, ‘You know, Rickey’s going to be good, too,’ and then with Justin people said, ‘He might be the best of them all.’ As a family, we’re more of an empire than an entourage, and ain’t nobody jealous about nobody. I’m sorry to have to say it like that, but I get passionate. The bond we have? You can’t break that. Other people shining doesn’t dim our light.”

Both Jordan and Rickey know how withering the spotlight can be. Beginning in his final year at LSU, where he started 32 games at quarterback, Jordan was jailed three times in 14 months on misdemeanor charges of simple battery and marijuana possession. During his senior year at Destrehan, days before signing with LSU, Rickey pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest after an encounter with police at a Mardi Gras parade in Metairie.

“I’m sure you’ve Googled us,” Rickey says. “You see what we went through, but what you go through is not who you are. We had some tough times as a family. We had to get through the public perception and stand tight as a family. We withstood the test, and Justin learned from those tense times, too.”

RICKEY JEFFERSON WAS in Trader Joe’s near his home in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, pushing a cart through the store with his 18-month-old son Isaiah in the baby seat. He turned into the frozen-food aisle and stopped. Up ahead was a mom and her two young sons. The older one, probably age 8 or 9, was hitting the Griddy. Or, hitting something close enough to the Griddy that Rickey recognized it as Griddy-adjacent.

“I mean, he’s trying, I’ll give him that,” Rickey says. “I’d say his Griddy looked like a mixture of Kirk Cousins and some big O-lineman.”

Justin made the Griddy famous his final year at LSU, when his mother suggested he give the fans a little entertainment after a score. He adopted the dance invented by Allen Davis — a friend of LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase — as his touchdown celebration, and now not only is the logo trademarked (Davis and Justin share in the rewards) but the dance is everywhere, in all its forms. “I knew from the beginning it was unique and something nobody else does,” Justin says, “but I didn’t expect to see every kid in the world to start hitting the Griddy.”

And so, here was Rickey, the brother of the man who turned a goofy dance into a worldwide phenomenon, walking up to this child with a welcoming smile saying, “Hey my man, this is how you do it.”

In full view of the pork shumai and the three-cheese pizzas, Rickey tapped his heels and swung his arms and threw up the B’s. He resisted the temptation to reveal his brother’s role in making this special moment possible.

“I don’t go around boasting,” Rickey says, laughing. “It’s not about me. I just wanted to help.”

THE LOT NEXT door to the Jeffersons’ house in St. Rose is roughly 170 feet front to back and 70 feet side to side, and for the longest time it was one of the only undeveloped parcels in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood within eyeshot of a levee warding off the Mississippi. The lot was the scene of years of fierce competition, an almost-necessary spillover for three boys whose age difference — Jordan is four years older than Rickey, Rickey five years older than Justin — managed to stoke the flame. The family was so competitive that Rickey says, “I didn’t beat my dad in basketball till I was 19, and we’re talking about a dude who had a hip replacement. He was ultra-competitive, and he might have called that foul late in the game that he wouldn’t have called earlier.”

John is a salesman for an industrial supply company, Elaine an administrator in the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office. They’ll keep working until they’ve earned their pensions, John tells me, “because we’ve earned it.” There’s a welcoming vibe coming from every precinct of this family, part of that empire-not-entourage thing Rickey references. Sullivan says, “A lot of families look at it like their ship has come in. John and Elaine have just rejoiced in the fact that he’s making it. Justin bought his mom a car and she cried. She didn’t ask for it.”

After all of the boys moved out of the house, John — a former college basketball player who still carries himself with the ease of an ex-athlete — asked the owner of the lot next door if he could purchase it, not as an investment or a building site but as a sort of shrine to his sons, and a tribute to the years of service that ground gave to his family. “There’s a lot of our history on that lot,” John says. “I asked him, did he want to sell it? We spent a lot of time on this lot.”

This is the spot where Jordan started spinning the ball in way few little kids can. It’s where Justin’s hands took a beating, where Rickey the middle man — head on a swivel — competed and fought and argued with brothers both younger and older. It’s where they’d find Justin whenever they couldn’t find him, and where John issued the family-famous words, “Bro, you need some work,” the first time he took Justin out here to run routes when the coaches at Destrehan High switched him from quarterback to receiver.

The owner of the lot took a few months to think about it before telling John he had decided to build on it. Now the neighbor’s house is almost finished; John and Elaine walk behind the house explaining what it looked like when they were raising their sons here; John points to where Jordan would stand with the football, directing his two younger brothers. And over here is where Justin would throw the football to himself while his brothers looked out the window and shook their heads.

So much of their lives played out on this dirt beneath their feet. It’s all unspooling in their minds. They remember the chaos of the three-game weekends: Justin’s Pee Wee games; Rickey’s high school games; Jordan’s LSU games. It’s been several years, but they still see it all, right there in the dirt of the nextdoor lot. “A lot of good memories,” Elaine says quietly. They go silent. Finally, John says, “I’m glad we had it for the time we did.” He shrugs and walks back to the house. He’ll be on a plane tomorrow. His son’s got a game.

Video producer: Sandarvis Duffie; Video editor: Tawney Luna. Art Direction by Cornel Beard. Wardrobe styling by Chanelle Whisper and Darnell Booker; grooming by Robb Kelly. Look 1: Jacket by Rhude, turtleneck by H&M, pants by Amiri and shoes by Louis Vuitton; Look 2: Jacket by Zara, jeans by Abercrombie & Fitch, shoes by Louis Vuitton; Look 3: Jacket by Saint Michael, sweats by Gallery and shoes by Dior. Accessories: chains and grill by Leo Khusro; bracelets by Lakeside Diamond; glasses by Oakley and Louis Vuitton. Furniture courtesy Blu Dot.

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