Former Raiders coach and broadcaster John Madden used to say that winning is the best deodorant. In Green Bay, the best deodorant is QB Aaron Rodgers, whose ability to orchestrate late-game rallies masked a lot of shortcomings for the Packers. Then Rodgers went down. Now the Packers are facing an important offseason. It appears DC Dom Capers won’t be back. The Pack has to find a pass rush. The season ended with a 35-11 road loss to the Lions. It was an irrelevant afternoon. The Pack’s run of consecutive postseason appearances already ended at eight.
There is good news for Cleveland fans: the Browns have two of the top-four picks in the draft and five in the first two rounds. New GM John Dorsey had more than $100 million in salary cap room. This would be a good offseason to bring in veterans who can help develop those five early picks, especially the QB the Browns take with a high pick. This could be a franchise-changing offseason.
Who gets hired? Ian Rapoport’s candidates: Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo, Chiefs OC Matt Nagy, Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, Eagles OF Frank Reich, Texans DC Mike Vrabel, Saints AHC/TE coach Dan Campbell, Seahawks AHC/OL coach Tom Cable, Steelers OC Todd Haley, Vikings DC George Edwards, Lions DC George Edwards, Lions DC Teryl Austin, Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak, Seahawks DC Kris Richard, Saints DC Dennis Allen, Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp, Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter, Bears DC Vic Fangio, Cardinals DC James Bettcher and Bucs DC Mike Smith.
Newly hired GM Dave Gettleman hit the ground running with the Giants, axing VP of player evaluation Marc Ross, waiving RT Bobby Hart and benching LT Ereck Flowers. Hart and Flowers said they weren’t playing Sunday. To which Gettleman said, "See ya!" Message received, judging by the 18-10 win over Washington. Now Gettleman has to hire a head coach. Rapoport’s short list: Patriots OC Josh McDaniel, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, Vikings DC Pat Shurmur, Panthers DC Steve Wilks, Giants interim coach Steve Spagnulo.
Patriots DC Matt Patricia is the favorite to land the Lions’ HC job, according to Rapoport. Makes sense with GM Bob Quinn having been an executive with the Patriots. But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, according to Pro Football Talk, was more than a little peeved that Patricia wore a blue T-shirt depicting Goodell with a red clown’s nose on the flight home from last year’s Super Bowl win. Would Goodell interfere with this hire? If Quinn learned anything while in New England, he won’t care about Goodell’s feelings.
Why do I have this feeling that DE James Harrison is going to prove to be a heck of a pickup for the Patriots. He joined the team last Tuesday after being cut by the Steelers and had five tackles against the Jets, two sacks and a forced fumble. Those two sacks topped the one he had in four games with the Steelers.
The Patriots are the top seed in the AFC for the seventh time since 1990, the most in the NFL during that span. This is the Patriots’ seventh 13-win season, breaking a tie with the Broncos for the most 13-win seasons in the Super Bowl era. The 49ers have the most with nine. Bill Belichick tied Tom Landry for third all time in regular-season wins by a coach Sunday with his 250th.
The Cowboys beat the Eagles 6-0 in a game notable for not many reasons other than these: It was the first time since Week 15 in 2007, Seahawks vs. Panthers (a 13-10 Panthers win), that a game was scoreless after three quarters, it was the lowest-scoring game in the NFL since 2007 and it was the lowest-scoring game in 118 meetings (playoffs included) between the two NFC East rivals. ESPN Stats & Info said it was the second game in the Super Bowl era without a made field goal or PAT. The first was the Eagles’ 34-20 win against the visiting Lions in 2013. That game was played in a blizzard and only one PAT was attempted. Should Eagles fans be worried? QB Nick Foles (above) passed for 237 yards, four touchdowns and zero INTs against the Giants during Week 15 in his first start since taking over for Carson Wentz. In the next two games, including a short, four-series outing Sunday, Foles passed for 202 yards, thrown for one TD against two INTs and has a passer rating of 48.2 What’s more, the Eagles were 1-for-17 on third down conversions. Now, not all third downs are the same, but a .059 conversion rate? Fox analyst Tony Gonzalez said the Eagles need to fix things and fix them fast. Howie Long suggested Eagles fans have to hope the offense was scaled back these last two games so as not to tip their hands on what they can do with Foles. That led to the line of the week from Michael Strahan: "That’s a big hope."
I’m sure you are aware that the 1972 Dolphins pop open bottles of champagne when the last undefeated team loses each season. Steve Spurrier, QB of the 0-14 Bucs in 1976, once said he and his old teammates on the original Bucs would celebrate when the last winless team won by pulling the flip-tops off cans of warm Diet Tab. The 2008 Lions stole the thunder from the original Bucs when they went 0-16. It took the Browns two tries, but they finally caught those hapless Lions. After a game effort last season that produced a 1-15 record, the Browns lost ’em all this year, their last hope of rallying against the Steelers ending on Corey Coleman’s drop (above). They are the first team in NFL history to lose 31 games over two seasons. After the loss, owner Jimmy Haslam said coach Hue Jackson will return next season.
With the Patriots playing host to the Jets, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin (above) rested a number of key players, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WE Antonio Brown. It was seen as a foolish move since the Steelers still had a shot at home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Ha! The Patriots had to lose to the visiting Jets and the Steelers had to beat the winless and visiting Browns. The Browns gave the Steelers a game before losing 28-24, but you and I, and apparently Tomlin, know there was no way the Pats were going to loss at home to the Jets. The Jets haven’t won in New England during the regular season with Brady at quarterback since 2006. They didn’t Sunday, either, losing 26-6. Oh, the Steelers, with Landry Jones at QB, scored a season-high 21 first-half points.
Take a bow: Tom Brady (40 years old), for becoming the oldest QB to lead the NFL in passing since Fran Tarkenton, who was 38 when he did it in 1978. … Falcons WR Julio Jones, who needed only 95 games to reach 9,000 career receiving yards. Lance Alworth needed 98. … The Chargers’ Philip Rivers, for becoming the ninth QB in history to pass for 50,000 yards. … RB Leonard Fournette (above), for becoming the first Jaguars rookie to rush for 1,000 yards since former Gator Fred Taylor had 1,223 in 1998. … Patrick Mahomes, for becoming the first QB drafted by the Chiefs to win a game since Todd Blackledge in 1987. It was a span of 492 games, which according to ESPN Stats & Info was the longest such streak in the NFL.
The Vikings appear to have everything they need to reach the Super Bowl, chief among them the NFL’s top-rated scoring defense and the 10th-ranked scoring offense. According to NFL Research, 14 of the 26 teams in the Super Bowl era to have the No. 1 scoring defense and a top-10 scoring offense reached the Super Bowl. But, no team has ever played in the Super Bowl in its own stadium, so as Hamlet would say, "Ay, there’s the rub." Still, it is possible the Vikings could stay home for the entire postseason. All they need is the top-seeded Eagles to lose their playoff opener,
The best division in the NFL: The NFC South with three teams heading to the postseason. The Falcons made it official with a 22-10 win against the Panthers that eliminated the Seahawks. The Saints won the division with the Panthers and Falcons earning the NFC’s wild-card spots. Much is wrong with the Bucs, and playing in this division doesn’t help.
Nine of 10 possible playoff scenarios favored the Ravens. The 10th was if the Bengals (the Ravens’ opponent), the Bills and Titans won. As the Ravens-Bengals entered the fourth quarter, that 10th scenario was in play. The Bengals, Bills and Titans were all winning. But the Ravens ran off 17 straight points and seemed headed for a wild-card spot. But then, Dandy Andy Dalton! His 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on fourth down with 44 seconds left capped an 11 play, 90-yard drive to invoke the worse-case scenario for the Ravens and … send the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in 18 seasons. The Bills’ 17-year playoff drought was the longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger and the longest of any team in the four North American pro leagues. The Bills head to Jacksonville this weekend for what is a winnable game. But Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy left with an ankle sprain and might not be available.
The Titans ended a three-game losing streak and an eight-season playoff drought with a 15-10 win against the Jaguars to clinch a wild-card berth. QB Marcus Mariota passed for 134 yards and a touchdown but his season-high 10 carries for 60 yards helped ice the win. The Jaguars head to the playoffs on a two-game losing streak.
Some things we learned this year: No one knows what is or what is not a catch, though when the catch in question results in a touchdown against the Pats, the NFL’s replay machine says it’s not a catch. … Tony Romo is one heck of an analyst. … Having the six games with playoff implications kicking off at 4:25 p.m. Sunday was a great way to end the regular season. … Thursday Night Football needs to go, as do the uniforms teams break out during those games. … It was a tough fall/early winter for Cleveland Browns/Indians fans. … Isn’t the NFL better when Jacksonville is relevant? … Preseason predictions are meaningless. Just ask the Giants.
Today is Black Monday in the NFL, when head coaches are given pink slips. It started early with the Colts firing Chuck Pagano after Sunday’s win, and amid Grumors in Oakland the Raiders fired Jack Del Rio. John Fox of the Bears and Jim Caldwell of the Lions are likely next. According to reports, Cardinals HC Bruce Arians is likely to resign; Titans HC Mark Mularkey is on the hot seat.