I actually have a ton to write and no time to do it, so I'll just hit the highlights.
Black Monday and the Coaching Carousel.
Football can be a brutal business, but unlike most previous years, this Black Monday was remarkably strange, and quiet. Most of the firings took place before or after. One coach was fired before his last game (Chip Kelly) and two were fired shortly after their last games (Mike Pettine and Jim Tomsula). So, my takes as a fan are the following:
The least surprising firing: Jim Tomsula. Does anyone outside of the 49ers organization clearly understand how he got hired in the first place?
The most expected and head-shaking firing: Mike Pettine. The Browns ownership has no idea how to win or maintain the consistency necessary to win. There is talent on that team; there was such under Chudzinski. But hiring and firing coaches every one or two years does nothing but build a perpetual cycle of top 5 draft picks to be squandered every damned year. No qualified coaching candidate will be willing to take the job knowing he'll lose it 365 days later. Pettine was a good coach who did his best to reign in Johnny Party as a franchise quarterback, but Manziel knew that Pettine was out the door and didn't give a salient crap. So, for the 17th time in 17 years, the Browns are "rebuilding". I'm sorry/not sorry but this pisses me off. The Browns are an iconic NFL team suffering from clowns in the head office.
The most disappointing firing: Lovey Smith. Anyone who pays attention knows that the Glazers are petulant and often challenged. Smith was doing good things in Tampa. He should never have been fired with a franchise quarterback and improving team devoted to his leadership.
The most heartbreaking firing: Tom Coughlin. I can't express how heartbreaking this is for a fan. He was the last of the old-school icons. Eli's tears speak for us all (except, of course, Dallas fans and the New England Empire Stormtroopers.) Just like Landry in Dallas, Coughlin deserved better.
The most surprising events of the last week were not the coaches fired but rather those kept.
The MVP of keeps: Mike McCoy. San Diego is facing change of monumental scale, and a suffered a team decimated by injury. Keeping McCoy was a smart move.
The head-scratcher of keeps: Jeff Fisher. He consistently wins against the power teams in his division and loses to teams the Rams should clearly destroy. Don't get me wrong, I like Fisher's brash nature. It makes for fun football. But when your team is stuck at 7-9 ad infinitum, something should give, yes?
The sigh-of-relief keep: Sean Payton. All season long, we've been hearing from punditry about Payton and Brees will not be associated with the Saints in 2016. As a fan, it is awesome that Payton will remain in the Big Easy.
The most shocking of coaching moves: Chuck Pagano. This one came completely out of left field. Expectations were so very high for the Colts (most pundits predicting a Superb Owl appearance) that for him to keep his job was nothing but a huge question mark, having missed the playoffs and lost the AFC South. He got a 4 year extension of contract. I'm not disappointed, just overwhelmingly surprised.
So the playoffs begin. It is a little unsettling in this age of 'parity' how many teams involved have faced each other before for the Lombardi trophy. The Steelers face a potential of 4 different franchises they've met in Super Bowls past, the Seahawks, The Cardinals, The Vikings and the Packers. The Broncos, Packers and Patriots all stare at three potential SB rematches. It's gonna be a wild ride, kids.
For the record:
Last Week's Score: 6 - 10, 38% Overall: 157 - 99, 61% The ESPN experts beat or matched me 7-6. Bad year.
Kansas City (5) at Houston (4)
Over the last 6 weeks, these are the 2 best defenses in the NF, Houston slightly better than KC. Hali and Houston are dinged. J.J. Watt is not, and I trust Houston's O-line more than that of KC. Smith has been faceplanted more than any other QB in recent weeks. This will be a slug-fest. However, Houston still suffers from NohasQB Simplex 1. I badly want the Texans to win. The Chiefs will take this game on a field goal.
Kansas City -16, Houston -13
Pittsburgh (6) at Cincinnati (3)
I've written before how absolutely brutal it is to face the same opponent three times in a year. Just a few weeks ago, the Steelers beat the Bengals, putting Dalton out for this game with a broken hand. Dalton isn't playing, but McCarron is a proven backup. McCarron won out except against the Bronco defense but Pittsburgh doesn't have the Bronco defense. Antonio Brown is possibly the best player in the NFL right now and Roesthlesberger has already earned his spot in Canton. In my years of watching NFL football, I've never seen edge receivers the likes of what the Bengals have. A.J. to A.J. wins the day.
Pittsburgh - 27, Cincinnati - 31
Seattle (6) at Minnesota (3)
Izz gonna be cold. Cold. COLD! I tell you. Supposedly, that favors the run game. The Seahawks have one of the best run defenses in football, and they are playing red hot. Peterson gets less than 80 yards. This will be the same kind of blowout we saw 5 weeks ago, though likely not as extreme.
Seattle - 27, Minnesota - 13
Green Bay (5) at Washington (4)
Lets not BS here. Rodgers is playing like crap. I do believe that McCarthy will open him up, and let him throw the ball at will. That doesn't mean a victory. Favre (whoops, sorry) Rodgers is turning the ball over, and Cousins is not. Washington is balling solid on both sides of scrimmage. I like the Packers, but they are not at Lambeau field.
Green Bay -17, Washington -24