Every Sunday night, Around The League takes a closer look at four of the day's most interesting subplots. We call it The Filthy Four ... mostly for alliteration purposes.
Pats get another crack
The Patriots took care of business in an unconventional manner on Sunday, falling behind the Bills 21-0 before rattling off the game's final 49 points to secure the top seed in the AFC. The game provided a perfect snapshot of this New England team: The cracks in the foundation are easy to spot, but an explosive offense acts as industrial strength spackle.
It remains to be seen if that modus operandi will play in the postseason. The Patriots might be the No. 1 seed, but that hasn't guaranteed Super Bowl glory in recent times. Last year, the Belichicks were picked off by the Jets in the divisional round. (Santonio Holmes helped ensure that won't happen again this year, but that's a whole different story.)
The AFC? Ben Roethlisberger is a playoff stud, but his ankle injury makes him an unknown. Joe Flacco is a fluke-o until he proves otherwise. Andy Dalton's been a revelation, but the Bengals reek of "We're just happy to be here!" T.J. Yates is T.J. Yates and Tim Tebow ... wow, let's not even get into that right now.
In the year of the quarterback, the Patriots have Brady still at the apex of his powers. That's good enough for us.
Flynn's money performance
Last week we wondered what happened to all the proficient backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Possibly in response to this open-ended query, down from Mt. Hostetler came Packers reserve Matt Flynn, who filled in for Rodgers against the Lions and submitted one of the more productive games in the history of the position. Seriously.
When the dust cleared in a 45-41 win, Flynn had completed 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns. To put his day in perspective, Flynn became only the third quarterback in NFL history with at least 480 yards and six touchdowns in a game, joining two guys named Namath and Tittle.
Monday Bloody Monday
If you dreaded going to work after an especially grisly performance this New Year's Eve, imagine how the idea of Monday must feel for the handful of NFL coaches rumored to be headed to the unemployment line.
It's the day after the end of the regular season, otherwise known as Black Monday in the NFL. We've already seen Tony Sparano in Miami, Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville and Todd Haley in Kansas City bite it. Now, the pink slips will be doled out in earnest, with Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Diego, and Indianapolis all likely to see Scorpions-level "Winds of Change."
Once the dust settles, the next question will be who fills all these posts. Jon Gruden has already said he's staying in the booth, possibly in an effort to make Mike Pereira's head explode. Bill Cowher will also remain in television, where he can continue to pretend to find Shannon Sharpe amusing. Brian Billick and Jeff Fisher possess some wow appeal, but other than that, there aren't many big names out there. Well, besides Rich Kotite, who is still very much on the board.
That's not to say there are no candidates out there who can be fine head coaches, but the teams in the market will likely have to bank on an unproven commodity. Happy hunting to all those teams looking, and stay youngry Raheem Morris, wherever you may land.
Romo was good, but Eli was better
Romo weathered a positively scary-looking Giants pass rush to complete 29 of 37 passes for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was a strong performance that's downright inspiring given his bruised right hand looked like it had been on ice at an Arlington morgue all week.
The outrageous seasons of Rodgers, Brees and Brady will render Manning an MVP afterthought, but it's hard to argue anyone is more valuable to their team than Manning is to the Giants. He absolutely carried New York for large stretches of the season, and he played an almost perfect game in the "Loser Leaves Town" showdown with the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Manning's numbers -- 24 of 33 for 346 yards and three touchdowns -- were fantastic, but they don't begin to tell the story of how in control he was. NBC's Cris Collinsworth had a bona fide man crush on Manning by the end of the night, and you couldn't blame him.