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Sure, third down conversions are critical. It’s often how NFL teams move the chains and keep drives alive. Duh. But today’s Cowboys-‘Niners game will be decided on first downs. Track them. Chart them. Be mindful and aware of them. The team that controls first down, offensively and defensively, will control the game. You don’t want to wind up in third and six or more against either of those pass rushes. SF will commit to the run on first down. It’s what they do. It’s who they are. Dallas may view first downs as their best downfield big-play opportunities. This will be a helluva chess match.

In this corner, Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz and CeeDee Lamb.

And in this corner, Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Ayuk. Some “heavy hands” will be thrown.

Will Purdy finally look like a rookie 7th round draft pick? He hasn’t yet.

Strong emotions often later produce strong “sags” or slingshot effects. I think we may have seen some of that from the Bills last week against the Dolphins. It sometimes looked like Buffalo was emotionally drained by their concern for Damar Hamlin. That won’t be the case today.  The Bills and their Mafia will be at fever pitch. That’s why I’m taking Buffalo. That, and the fact that the Bengals’ offensive line has been decimated by injuries.

Of course, Patrick Mahomes will play in the AFC Championship Game. Of course he will. He’s Patrick Mahomes. But he’s not going to be “OK.” That ankle will get way worse this week before it gets better, as I suspect Sunday morning’s scheduled MRI will confirm. This is a big deal. Mahomes’ mobility will be limited, and his mobility is his game. This injury will have a major impact on both the Chiefs’ offensive game plan and the defensive scheme of their opponent. K.C. is fortunate to have a veteran backup quarterback like Chad Henne, who can come off the bench and engineer a 98-yard TD drive in a playoff game.

The Chiefs are in the AFC Title Game for the fifth straight year. That is mind-boggling.

The Jags’ youth and lack of playoff experience showed at critical times Saturday. But their time is coming. Of that there is no doubt. Doug Pederson will see to that.

Don’t tell me that winning the top seed and getting a first-round bye doesn’t matter. The Eagles looked fresher, sharper, faster, better rested and better prepared than the Giants, and that Philly home crowd is a force. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles are a betting favorite over either the ‘Niners or the Cowboys next Sunday.

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.