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If the Super Bowl comes down to the kickers, it'll be a rookie against an established standout

LAS VEGAS (AP) — In this town of favorites and underdogs, the Super Bowl kicking matchup between Harrison Butker and Jake Moody fits the narrative nicely.

Moody is the challenger, a rookie who missed key kicks in a couple losses and has had some shaky moments during these playoffs. Butker is the champion, a veteran who has come through in the clutch for Kansas City throughout his career and provided the winning points for the Chiefs when they won it all last year.

The kickers have been an afterthought in most Super Bowls, but in a close game they can make all the difference. Butker's 27-yard field goal with 8 seconds left gave the Chiefs a 38-35 win over Philadelphia in last season's Super Bowl.

Butker is 7 for 7 on field goals this postseason and went 33 of 35 during the regular season. He's one of several big-name kickers Moody has gone up against in his first NFL season.

“Justin Tucker and Matt Prater, Dustin Hopkins, just to name a couple. It's always cool just meeting these guys and kind of like trying to pick their brain a little bit," Moody said. "Those are the guys I grew up watching. To be able to play against them on the same field, that's a pretty cool feeling. Butker's another name to add.”

Moody was a standout in college at Michigan and was drafted in the third round by the 49ers. He only missed four field goals during the regular season, but one was at the end of a two-point loss to Cleveland. He also missed a field goal and an extra point in a one-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

He's had a miss and a kick blocked in the playoffs, but he also made a big 52-yarder in the divisional round.

“Although I've had some ups and downs, some good moments, some bad moments, it's been a good year to learn from,” he said. “I'm glad everything's worked out the way it has. Obviously, we're in the Super Bowl, so it's been a pretty cool year.”

IN THE LIMELIGHT

The wife of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is stealing a little of the spotlight from him this week after Sports Illustrated announced that Brittany Mahomes would be in the 60th anniversary of its swimsuit issue in May.

The 28-year-old Brittany Mahomes, who briefly played collegiate soccer and in a professional league in Europe, will be featured as one of SI’s swimsuit rookies, and several teaser photos of her upcoming appearance have been released on social media.

Brittany Mahomes, who has become close friends with pop superstar Taylor Swift this season, has been a lightning rod at times. She has made many eyebrow-raising posts on social media, and in January 2022, she was criticized for spraying champagne on cold fans after the Chiefs won a playoff game.

“People are going to love you or hate you,” Brittany Mahomes said on an Instagram Story after the SI announcement, “but finding your values and what makes you ‘you’ to be the best version of yourself is what really matters. Whether that’s health and wellness, being a great wife or mom, or career goals, being the best version of you is the most important thing you can be.”

TECHNOLOGY

Like seemingly every other business, the NFL is trying to figure out how to use artificial intelligence in the best way possible.

Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president for football operations, said it’s planning to keep using data to help coaches keep track of their players during games.

“One of the things that we’re thinking about doing is (introducing) a spreadsheet where they can have in real time who’s on the field, personnel, and who’s not on the field,” Vincent said at a news conference on the league’s Next Gen Stats initiative. “I don’t want to sound like a dinosaur here but we still have clubs that are writing that on a piece of paper.”

San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters Thursday that whatever technology coaching staffs currently use “isn’t good enough” when considering the grand scope of artificial intelligence.

“Everything evolves every day,” Shanahan said. “So I don’t care if you’re young or old, whether it’s this week or next week, you don’t stop (learning).

“It’s pretty broad on what AI does and everything, but it can help and we’ll use anything that helps.”

MANNING ON PURDY

Two-time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning had some choice words for anyone who thinks Brock Purdy's system in San Francisco diminishes his accomplishments.

“The ‘system quarterback’ thing, I'd take that as a compliment. I think you want to be a system quarterback. That means you know your system. The system's there and you've mastered it,” Manning said. "You're going to the right place. You're looking at the defenses, you're analyzing that and you're saying, ‘All right, this is where the ball should go.’ And then I'm throwing it accurately to my receivers. I don't know why that's like an insult."

GIVING BACK

NFL players played “Madden” and tag, ran relays and even made crafts with children at the Walter Payton Man of the Year community event Friday.

About a dozen Walter Payton nominees spent time with members of the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada for a little over an hour, displaying why they were nominated by their teams. The award is given to the player who shows excellence on and off the field, through his play, and through volunteer work in his community. Each team nominates a player for the recognition.

At NFL Honors on Thursday night, the league-wide honor was given to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward for his volunteer work in an organization he started called the Heyward House, which backs a variety of causes from promoting child literacy to fighting childhood hunger.

“I love my day job,” Heyward said Friday. “I love being an NFL player, but I love giving back to my community because I love making sure I’m making an impact.”

NFL Honors ended Thursday night at around 11 p.m. and Friday’s event started at 9:30 a.m., with players arriving earlier to get ready. All of them participated fully despite the short night.

“Could have rolled over from last night and been like ‘Nah,’” Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said. “These kids need us. They look up to us. With the life that I have, I’m blessed in it. I want to give my blessings back to some kids that could eventually come back and join this bandwagon of success.”

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