Colts general manager Chris Ballard was beyond impressive talking to the press in Indianapolis on Wednesday, the day after Josh McDaniels inexplicably left him at the altar in grotesque, bush-league fashion. Ballard showed great poise and presence, handling the heat of a terrible situation with grace and aplomb. And at the conclusion of his inspiring press conference, Ballard dropped the mic with a simple walk-off line:
Just awesome. And it got me thinking about rivalries ...
So, based upon recent events, here are some new and rekindled rivalries -- presented Schein Nine style, from the juiciest on down:
1) Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots
Don't tweet me the lopsided nature of this rivalry in recent years. I truly don't care. The Colts general manager just got spurned in sickening fashion by the Patriots offensive coordinator. McDaniels was so far along in his agreement with the Colts that some of his chosen assistants had signed contracts with the club, uprooting themselves and their families. And then McDaniels had a last-minute change of heart and backed out? Oh, it's on. It is SO on. And yes, the two teams will indeed face off in Foxborough during the 2018 regular season. Think Indy will be fired up for that road trip?
2) San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams, of course, just enjoyed a breakthrough season, going 11-5 to win the division title. Meanwhile, the 49ers finished the regular season with a flurry -- after starting the year at 1-10, they closed out the campaign with five straight wins. Different levels of accomplishment there, no doubt, but what makes this rivalry renewal so enticing is what these two teams have in common. Each franchise boasts an enviable (and youthful) coach-QB combination: Sean McVay and Jared Goff in L.A., Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo by the Bay. Thus, this rivalry can be a special one for years to come.
3) Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Jon Gruden is back! He and Andy Reid are longtime friends, which only adds to the intrigue here. Who doesn't love some delicious frenemy heat?!
Yes, this is a rivalry with a rich history, but it definitely fell out of the national consciousness during the Raiders' prolonged downturn. Fortunately, it began simmering again in recent years. (Remember this past October's epic Thursday night bout? Or how about two seasons ago, when the Raiders went 12-4 ... but were swept by the AFC West champion Chiefs?) And with "Chucky" back in Silver and Black, I think the rivalry really takes off again and becomes must-see TV for all NFL fans.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jacksonville beat the Steelers in front of the Steelers' own fans twice in the 2017 season, blowing them off the field in Week 5 and outlasting them 45-42 in the Divisional Round. In the 2018 campaign, the Jaguars will host Pittsburgh at EverBank Field. Can the Steelers spoil the home team's fun this time around? Or will the upstart Jags make it three straight over the storied AFC giant?
5) Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Interviewing the likes of Xavier Rhodes, Stefon Diggs and Andrew Sendejo in Minneapolis last week, one thing was abundantly clear: The bad taste from that Championship Sunday debacle still looms large, sullying a fine season for the Vikings. I don't believe there was a hangover after the "Minneapolis Miracle." But the Vikings played their worst game of the year in that 38-7 embarrassment at Philadelphia.
Minnesota wants another crack at the Eagles -- and the Vikes will get it in the 2018 season, with another trip to Philly on the slate. Could Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo be switching sidelines? (He's interviewing for the Vikings' offensive coordinator job.) Will former Eagle Sam Bradford, once traded for Nick Foles, be the Vikings quarterback? Is it crazy to think that Bradford replaces Foles as Philadelphia's QB2 if Howie Roseman sells high? Remember who Roseman got with the pick from the Sam Bradford trade? Derek Barnett, who scooped up a pretty important fumble recovery a few days ago.
6) New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers
When a team cleans your clock three times in one season, it's on. Yes, New Orleans just pulled off the rare three-game sweep of Carolina, with two of the wins coming by double digits.
New Orleans and Atlanta is my favorite rivalry in the NFC South, but that's established. This one's far more under the radar. And Cam Newton doesn't want to be embarrassed (again).
7) Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
Mike Vrabel leaves the Houston staff to be the head coach in Tennessee. Vrabel obviously knows the Texans and Bill O'Brien quite well, and he's very well respected. But now he's the enemy. Splendid dramatic twist.
I think Vrabel is a great hire for Tennessee. And new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will be great for Marcus Mariota, creating explosive plays and cutting down on the young QB's interceptions. Deshaun Watson told me last week that he'd be ready for training camp, and that's a beautiful thing. (What was more exciting this past season than Watson's abbreviated starting tenure?)
Both teams will be gunning for the AFC South title and a playoff spot. Go time.
8) Los Angeles Chargers vs. Los Angeles Rams
Year 1 in the Battle for L.A. was a resounding victory for the Rams. Sean McVay's team generated plenty of buzz, while the Bolts' fan support was, uh, lacking, to put it nicely.
In 2018, both Los Angeles teams should be thinking about winning playoff games, not just making the dance. Once again, there will be major competition for eyeballs and presence at the box office. And these teams are scheduled to face off in the L.A. Coliseum. I can't wait.
9) Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens
OK, I admit this one's a bit of a stretch. But who can forget the contrasting scenes that played out in these cities in Week 17?