Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, the biggest move teams looking for a change can make is to fire the head coach. There are obvious names on the hot seat -- Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio -- but history tells us that there could be a few surprises at the end of the season.
In recent years, high-profile names like Jeff Fisher, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden were all let go after successful runs, with the latter two winning Super Bowl titles during their tenures in Denver and Tampa Bay, respectively.
In-season changing coaches are nothing new. In fact, it's happened 18 times since 2000. It's just another example of the NFL being driven by what have you done for me lately. That's true for players, general managers and coaches.
With some teams already thinking about 2012 and others in danger of falling far short of expectations, here are the coaches -- listed alphabetically -- in jeopardy of being fired in the coming weeks or at season's end.
Coaches on the hot seat
Jack Del Rio, Jaguars: He's one of two coaches in danger of being fired during the season. This is a situation where the empty seats don't bode well for job security. Upcoming dates vs. Baltimore and at Houston could determine his fate heading into the Week 9 bye.
Leslie Frazier, Vikings: The thing that could hurt Frazier is how much he wanted Donovan McNabb in Minnesota. Blowing double-digit second-half leads three different times also doesn't help his case. The Vikings might opt to give Frazier another year, but the team needs to show improvement under rookie quarterback Christian Ponder going forward.
Todd Haley, Chiefs: He's going to have to extend the team's current two-game winning streak to help his chances. Kansas City can't go from AFC West champ in 2010 to below .500. The Chiefs play each of their division foes over the next four weeks with a date against the Dolphins part of the stretch. To save his job, he must win those four and find a way to make the playoffs.
Gary Kubiak, Texans: Each season, you hear, "This is the year Houston makes the playoffs." Well, it better happen this time around or Kubiak won't be back. The injuries have hurt, but there are no more excuses when the AFC South is going to come down to the Texans and Titans. He's had everything needed to win from ownership -- spending heavily in free agency this offseason and adding Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator -- and has to deliver.
Andy Reid, Eagles: He's been in Philadelphia since 1999 and had a lot of success. But like I said, there's usually a firing or two that catches everyone off guard. Ownership put a lot of money into this roster, and if the Eagles don't make the playoffs, Reid could be the scapegoat in a tough town to keep happy.
Lovie Smith, Bears: The next four games are going to tell what kind of shot the Bears have at making the playoffs. At 3-3, they head to London to play the Bucs then go to Philly and come home to face the Lions and Chargers. Even though Smith got a contract extension thanks to last season's run, there could be enough sentiment to make a surprise change if Chicago finishes with six or fewer wins.
Steve Spagnuolo, Rams: There could be a change in St. Louis after a lot was expected following a seven-win campaign in 2010. Injuries have hurt, but the Rams need to start stacking victories for Spagnuolo to return. The new ownership structure wasn't part of bringing in the current regime, so loyalties could be sparse.
Tony Sparano, Dolphins: He's playing with a backup quarterback and a lot of empty seats after an 0-5 start. As rumors persist, he could be a midseason casualty, but the Dolphins are plotting their next move and might wait to pull the trigger until they know who will replace Sparano. Either way, he won't be back next season.
Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals: If Arizona continues to struggle offensively and Kevin Kolb doesn't play better, Whisenhunt might be in trouble. The Cardinals are 1-4 in a weak division. It's never good when your starting quarterbacks says, players "have to get more detail-oriented."
» With Carson Palmer back in the league, there are 16 quarterbacks who have an average salary of at least $10 million per season.
» The Chiefs rank sixth in rushing, but are the only team without a rushing touchdown.
Fozzy Whittaker has taken kicks back for touchdowns in consecutive weeks against good competition. He's averaging 5.1 yards per carry for Texas and could be a potential third-down back at the next level. His skill set is similar to Randal Cobb in terms of being able to make a difference in the return game and being a weapon on offense. Whittaker's in the fourth-round range at this point.
With competitive balance more of a factor each year, teams are looking for players to help win the field-position battle. Whittaker heads the list of prospects that can make a difference in the return game.
Game of the week: Chiefs at Raiders
This is one of the better all-time rivalries. All the talk this week is going to be about Carson Palmer, but his real impact is probably going to take a little time to be felt.
This game is going to come down to Chiefs QB Matt Cassel vs. Raiders CB Stanford Routt. To beat Oakland, you have to pass, and Cassel struggled in two losses to the Raiders last season (two touchdowns, three interceptions). In his past three games, Cassel has seven touchdowns and one pick. While Routt is Oakland's best corner, he isn't playing as well this season and needs to step up.
Another key to the game will be Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson trying to slow down Darren McFadden, who is having an All-Pro type season. The Raiders are going to have to run the ball as they adjust to a new starting quarterback. Johnson is able to play sideline to sideline, but must make sure McFadden doesn't get into space because that's where the running back is most dangerous.
I like the Raiders to win in overtime, 23-20.