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Playoffs and Layoffs: Black Monday for the NFL

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“It’s not whether you win or lose, but who gets the blame.” Blaine Nye

After 17 weeks, 256 games and 11,985 points scored the NFL regular season ended last night when Dallas Cowboys’ Quarterback Kyle Orton was intercepted by Brandon Boykin.  That pass ended the Cowboys playoff hopes and season and sent the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs as champions of the NFC East.

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It was an exciting end to the season. The season went down to the wire for the Eagles, the Green Bay Packers who came from behind to stun the Chicago Bears to take the NFC Central and the San Diego Chargers who swiped the last AFC Wild Card when Baltimore and Miami lost.

The playoffs are now set. The Wild Card round will feature the AFC South Champion Indianapolis Colts (11-5) play the number 5 Wild Card seed Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) and the AFC Central Champion Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) face off against the number six seed San Diego Chargers (9-7). In the NFC the Eagles (10-6) will square off against the number six seed New Orleans Saints (11-5) while the NFC Central Champion Green Bay Packers (9-7) will face number five seed the San Francisco 49ers (12-4). The AFC West Champion Denver Broncos (13-3)  AFC East Champion New England Patriots, NFC South Champion Carolina Panthers (12-4) NFC West Champion Seattle Seahawks have first round byes.

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Among the teams left out of the playoff picture from last season are last year’s Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons.

As good as some teams were some were very bad and with badness went pink slips. As legendary coach John McKay said of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers years ago: “We stunk. We blocked bad; we were terrible on defense and our kicking game made up for it by being absolutely horrible. I saw nothing that delighted me, we ran on the field fairly well.”

Kansas City Chiefs vs Washington Redskins

But the bigger news today are the firings of coaches. Since Sunday night five coaches had been fired. The pink slips started Sunday night with the Cleveland Browns (4-12) who fired first year head coach Rob Chudzinski, that moved surprised many observers. The firings began in earnest this morning when the Minnesota Vikings (5-10) fired Leslie Frazier, the 7-9 Detroit Lions fired 5th year coach Jim Schwartz after a late season collapse. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) fired their Head Coach Greg Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominick. Lastly the controversy ridden Washington Redskins who finished a dismal season at 3-13 fired the highly paid Mike Shanahan despite still owing him another $7 million dollars. Washington owner Daniel Snyder will be looking for his 7th Head Coach since 1999.

Some player’s like Washington’s fullback Darrel Young blamed themselves for their coach’s demise. Young said “We failed a Hall of Fame coach. It was a lack of execution by the players this year.”

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Not counted among the Black Monday casualties was Houston Texan’s head coach Gary Kubiak who was fired December 6th. The Texans who had made the playoffs last year finished the season 2-14, the worst record in the league. The Texans had lost 11 games in a row after winning their first two of the season and had been pre-season favorites to get to the Super Bowl.

The Redskins and Texans were both so bad this year that John McKay’s statement on when the Buccaneers had lost their record setting 26th straight game: “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”

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Other coaches could still be fired, rumors are swirling about a number of others but one who seems to be safe is Cowboy’s Head Coach Jason Garrett who still has the public backing of GM and Owner Jerry Jones. However it is expected that several assistants will be let go. Likewise Rex Ryan of the Jets has survived. Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen could be gone soon, he has not been offered any contract extensions and finished with a 4-14 record in 2013. Rumors also swirl about Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbon after a disappointing fish to the season.

So things will be interesting both on and off the field for the next month.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A “Wild” Wild Card Weekend

Though I am not a member of the heretical Church of Football but rather a member of the one true Church, the Church of Baseball, I do pay attention to what happens in this aberrant sect.  This weekend was the “Wild Card Weekend” where the teams with the best records that did not win a division title faced off against each other and the division title winner in each conference with the worst of the divisional winners.

I do not have any dog in the fight except for whoever is playing the Cowboys.  I don’t consider me to be a “Cowboy hater” but I cannot be considered to be a Cowboy fan having suffered through Cowboy hubris living as a foreigner in the Republic of Texas, though serving as a sworn member and officer in that Land’s National Guard being a member of a unit with its heritage going back to the Texas Brigade of General John Bell Hood.

Rookie QB Mark Sanchez Leads the Jets over the Bengals (AP photo)

This weekend featured four games.  In the first game the New York Jets under coach Buddy Ryan defeated the Cincinnati 24-14 Bengals for the second straight week in Cincinnati after having shellacked the Bengals last week to secure a playoff berth.   This was not really a surprise to me because the Jets after an inauspicious start to the season where almost anyone with half a brain figured that they stood no chance of even having a winning season and that Ryan would be a former head coach by now turned things around and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in football.

Tony Romo and the Cowboys Broke their Playoff Drought against the Eagles (AP photo)

In the monstrosity known as Cowboy’s Stadium where the scoreboard is bigger than Eritrea the Cowboys clipped the Eagles wings for the second straight week.  In fact they made the Eagles who had entered the playoff never having lost an opening playoff game under Coach Andy Reid. The Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996.  The Cowboys much like the Jets had been pronounced dead after losing to San Diego and heading into their traditional December depression. This time Tony Romo and Coach Wade Phillips led the Cowboys to a 34-14 win over the Eagles sending Donovan McNabb home to eat soup with mom.

Now neither of these games were a surprise to me after the previous week where both the Cowboys and the Jets had made the Bengals and Eagles look bad.  Now it is true that both the Bengals had nothing to gain in the final game of the season, but even so they were flat and the Eagles first lost the division last week and were booted from the playoffs Saturday.

Ray Rice had 159 Yards against the Patriots (AP Photo)

Today’s games were certainly entertaining, unless you are a Patriots fan.  In the first game today the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Patriots with a crushing rushing attack and devastating defense led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis 33-14.  The Ravens made the Patriots who had one of their most uneven seasons of the past 10 years look bad.  Tom Brady, who was probably cursed by the Grand Master Pastor Reverend Marc of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church who had labeled Brady a sinner bound for hell on their website had a terrible day. He went 23 of 42 attempts for a mere 154 years with three interceptions. Baltimore Running Back Ray Rice rushed for more yards by himself than Brady passed for. So the Patriots pass into off season oblivion while Bill Belichick commented “All of us that participated in the game are accountable for our performance and I don’t think anybody felt very good about it, players, coaches, anybody.” The Patriots looked really bad like they did not even belong on the same field as the Ravens.

Kurt Warner and his Offense Celebrate against the Packers (AP Photo)

In the final game of the Wild Card Weekend we were treated to a truly “wild” game.  The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers who had defeated the Cardinals in the last game of the regular season 33-7 by a score of 51-45 in overtime.  This was an offensive display seldom seen in the playoffs; the most points ever scored in an NFL playoff game and possibly was one of the most exciting playoff games ever played. Kurt Warner led the Cardinals attack and the game was decided in the first series of overtime when Cardinal Karlos Dansby returned a fumble by Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers 17 yards for a defensive touchdown. The teams combined for 1024 yards of offense and 96 points.   The Packers go home.

Next week the Cardinals will venture to the Bayous of Louisiana to play the Saints in the Superdome.  New Orleans is favored but I would not count out Warner and the Cardinals.  The Ravens stay on the road to venture into Indianapolis to play Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Colts are favored but have played very flat since resting their players in week 15 and giving up the chance at a perfect season while the Ravens have played like a team possessed.  Moving on to Sunday Dallas will venture to the northlands to play the Vikings in the nation’s loudest venue the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome in what could be the last game of any kind played there unless the Vikings win and the Saints lose forcing Arizona to go north.  The Vikings stumbled into the playoffs while the Cowboys are hot.  The game could certainly go either way but I think that the Vikings home field advantage might with a strong offensive and defensive performance might be what the Vikings need to send the Cowboys home.  In the final game the Jets wing their way to the west coast to play the Chargers who have remained hot all year long.  While the Jets could pull an upset I will go with the Chargers to shoot down the Jets.

My picks for what they are worth.  I think that the Cardinals by 3 in a shootout in New Orleans and the Colts by 7 the over the Ravens despite a hope that the Ravens will pull the upset.  In the Sunday games I take Brett Farve and the Vikings over the Cowboys by 3 and the Chargers over the Jets by 7.

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