On this special episode of “Listen In With KNN” sports talk radio show/podcast presented by FOX Sports Radio, award-winning broadcast host Kelsey Nicole Nelson welcomed special guest Matthew Berry. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author as well as a host/analyst on NBC Sports and their streaming service, Peacock. Berry is featured on Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock’s exclusive NFL post-game show, Sunday Night Football Final. For years, Berry worked at ESPN as the premiere fantasy football analyst and is the perfect man to get you set for the NFL Playoffs and the road to the Super Bowl.
Starting off, Berry brings up that Nelson covers the Washington Commanders, which he notes is his favorite football team and said she does a great job covering the team. At one point during the conversation, Nelson asked Berry how he became a fan of the club, even though he lived in Texas. Berry replies that he lived in Virginia until he was 12-years-old, and starting at the age of five, began rooting for the Washington based team during the Joe Gibbs era. In talking about his fandom, Berry said that “When you’re a kid, it’s in your blood.” Berry also exclaimed that he will be a Washington fan until the day he dies. Nelson asked Berry his thoughts on the Commanders name and he states that while he isn’t a big fan of the name, he doesn’t hate it either. Berry states that he had gotten used to the name Washington Football Team and both agreed it had a nice ring to it. Berry recalled a story while working for ESPN and stated he ran into former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann at a Super Bowl Party. When Berry asked Theismann about his thoughts on the Commanders nickname, he replied “Hey, we aren’t the Pelicans.” Both Nelson and Berry agreed that winning can solve a lot when it comes to the Commanders’ issues on and off the field.
When discussing the current state of the Commanders, Nelson noted that the fans are having a tough time watching playoff games, as all the NFC East teams made it, except Washington. Nelson asked Berry about the steps the Commanders need to make if they want to make the playoffs next season. Berry replied that the team needs to build out from the quarterback position, noting that Carson Wentz and Chase Young aren’t enough to get Washington back into postseason contention. Berry stated that the Commanders have been too good to get a decent pick in the draft but not good enough to get into the playoffs. Notes how the team would be different with a player like quarterback Joe Burrow. When discussing quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s performance under center last season, Berry quipped that while he is a model player for kids to look up to, in terms of effort, he is not the most talented player on the team and adds while the team played better with Heinicke under center, QB Carson Wentz and coach Ron Rivera crushed the Commanders playoff dreams. Berry would go on to emphasize the point of adding at quarterback and noted that he is excited for a potential new owner to lead the helm in D.C.
Transitioning onto the possibility of a new owner, Nelson noted that the organization has been under a lot of scrutiny within this current ownership but was overshadowed by the play of Heinicke as well as running back Brian Robinson Jr, who overcame his injuries from a shooting of an armed robbery. Robinson made his NFL debut in Week 5 of the 2022 regular season. Turning back to Carson Wentz, Nelson asked Berry about the QB’s future and what is next for him in the NFL. Berry notes the numerous injuries that took place over the season at QB and says that Wentz will find a job with a club somewhere. Stating that he’ll need to do some soul searching on what kind of player he wants to be, Berry suggested that Wentz and his agent should call around to different teams in need of a veteran backup, like the LA Rams and Matthew Stafford. Noting that Stafford will need a quality backup, he likens the situation similar to what the Rams did with bringing in Baker Mayfield to fill the position while Stafford was injured.
In discussing other quarterbacks, Nelson turns to the other local team in the area, the Baltimore Ravens and the situation regarding quarterback Lamar Jackson. Berry thinks the relationship has soured between Jackson and Ravens management but still feels the team will franchise tag him. He feels the team will have Jackson as an active participant in their new offensive coordinator search, similar to what Aaron Rodgers did with the Green Bay Packers. Berry reiterates that the relationship has deteriorated to the point where Jackson could be leveraging his way out of town by a sign and trade. He followed up that point by saying he hopes cooler heads prevail and stays with Baltimore. Nelson added that the team needs to give Jackson more offensive weapons outside of Mark Andrews and states that the offense has become too predictable. If Jackson leaves, Nelson noted that many Ravens’ fans have stated potential approval for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Moving on to other quarterbacks, Berry stated that this offseason will be similar to last with the impending quarterback shuffle. Adding that, although Matthew Stafford says he will play next season, he doesn’t rule out retirement and that players like Carr, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will be on the move. Berry also discussed Daniel Jones’ breakout season and how his market will form, as well as the health of Tua Tagovailoa. Nelson exclaimed that this is what keeps them busy after Berry said that this free agent process is never boring.
Looking around the league, the duo then shifted to conservation about coaches on the move. Nelson brought up the hiring of former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett to become the New York Jets next offensive coordinator. Nelson said that many people speculate that if the New York Jets can land quarterback Aaron Rodgers because of this hiring, that they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Berry piggybacked off that notion, highlighting the improvement the Jets made from the prior season to last season, the emergence of running back Breece Hall, receivers Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore and affirms that the Jets core is a good one. Berry followed up those comments by saying that the Jets are one QB away from a Super Bowl win and that Aaron Rodgers can help them achieve that goal. Berry doubled down on that, noting that the Jets almost made the playoffs with Joe Flacco, Mike White and Zach Wilson under center.
In talking about the other big news that occurred, Nelson brought up the hiring of Frank Reich as the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Berry said that while the interim coach Steve Wilks should have gotten a better look, he says Reich is the safest choice. Berry noted that when Indianapolis fired Reich, the Colts were still in the thick of things and with the hiring of Jeff Saturday in the interim, said the Colts faded, making the point that Reich was not the main problem in Indianapolis. He followed up by saying that most people in the NFL say Reich is a good coordinator but the jury is out on Reich as a head coach but with all that, he believes the Panthers will be a competent team next season.
Moving to the championship games, Nelson notes the excitement leading up to the AFC Championship Game featuring the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals. She emphasized the back and forth banter on social media with players like cornerback Eli Apple and even the Mayor of Cincinnati Aftab Pureval. While liking both teams’ chances, Berry said Kansas City will win but it will be close. Berry noted that the betting line shifted in favor of Kansas City after the video of Patrick Mahomes walking out of the press conference went viral. In talking about Patrick Mahomes, Berry said he was impressed that he was able to come back onto the field after being in pain and highlighted that the roar of the crowd was loud, as he was on-site broadcasting the game. Berry also emphasized that even a less than 100 percent Patrick Mahomes is still one of the best in the game. Berry then went on to highlight that while the Bengals are red hot against the Chiefs, winning the last three matchups, all of those games went down to the wire and if KC can get to Joe Burrow, they’ll have a better shot at winning. While also saying the Chiefs are a slightly better team, he stuck with his stance that the game will be close and is a coin flip on who will win.
In discussing the NFC championship game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, both feel that 49ers QB Brock Purdy has made the San Francisco fans believe while Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has finally gotten over the hump and commanded the respect he feels he deserves. Nelson stated that Philly is a team of destiny and winning this game and the Super Bowl will give them their much needed respect. In highlighting Brock Purdy, Berry stated that not many people believed in him, being that he was the last man drafted in his class but notes that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan got the most out of Purdy, going 6-0 with him as a starter. On the Philly end of things, Berry stated that the Eagles had 75 sacks last season and are fully healthy going into the game and adds that Philadelphia needs to pressure Purdy, as he’s faltered under pressure in the pocket. He added that while both teams have a lot of weapons, he believes the Eagles will win and will cover the spread.
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Listen to the full interview here!