The NFL had a brilliant idea when it went to a full slate of divisional games in Week 17. There were meaningful matchups all day long.
With the playoff field is set and coaching carousel in motion, here my observations from the final Sunday of the regular season.
Some can already call it a season
1. No shame for Seahawks
Right before the Seahawks-Rams game, I heard Lawyer Milloy say to his teammates, "It doesn't matter how we got here, we are here, so let's make the best of it." It's easy to say a below .500 team shouldn't be in the playoffs or get a home game. However, after watching the hometown crowd and the effort the team put forth to win the NFC West, I think it's a good thing the Seahawks get to host a postseason game. Everyone has already announced the Saints will easily win, but can you imagine what the story will be if the Seahawks win. Seattle is 5-3 at home and coach Pete Carroll has his team playing loose.
2. Road could get wild
When the pairings were announced, many proclaimed that the four wild-card teams would sweep the host teams. There is a good chance at least three of the road teams make it out of the first round, but it could be the Eagles with their 4-4 home record that could surprise people as a team that could struggle. While the Chiefs could only manage 10 points at home Sunday, they should be ready to go even though offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will join the University of Florida staff after the playoffs has to impact the organization. Figure two of the four road teams will win and don't get caught up in the hype that the hosts will be swept.
3. Worth keeping
Some coaches are getting their walking papers. Look back at any of these decisions over the past 10 years and you will realize it might have been smarter to keep the coach and get him some more help.
I feel strongly about two coaches being retained. Marvin Lewis has let his contract expire and hopefully that gives him the leverage to get what he wants to stay in Cincinnati. Did you see how his team did without Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens over the last two weeks? Ownership should give him the facilities he's asking for but, more importantly, give him final say over the 53-man roster and get him a real scouting department. The other coach in a difficult situation is Tom Cable. He went 6-0 against the AFC West, motivates his players and can communicate with Al Davis.
Both situations call for ownership to realize the guy leading my team right now is the best man for the job.
4. Patriots stand alone
Tom Brady and the Patriot machine look unstoppable. To think they played Week 17 without their top three receivers (Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez) and moved the ball at will, besting their season average for points at home with 38 after averaging 33. Keep in mind, the Dolphins have a good defense and couldn't slow down New England. The Patriots were 11 for 17 on third down and generated 502 yards of offense.
5. Rookie growing pains
I didn't think the 2010 draft was rich in quarterback talent, but six rookies started in Week 17 (Sam Bradford, Joe Webb, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, John Skelton and Colt McCoy). Each lost and averaged 165 yards passing, throwing just five touchdowns to nine interceptions. Most likely, three of these rookies will have a new coach next year, which spells trouble for their development and puts them on a rocky road moving forward. Bradford should be the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Webb is the only quarterback under contract in Minnesota, where Leslie Frazier will return.
6. Trade bait
One of the big stories this offseason will be the tradability of Eagles QB Kevin Kolb. Keep in mind, Andy Reid needs to get Michael Vick under contract, and if the Eagles make a deep playoff run it will be a big bundle of money. Reid was raised as a coach in Green Bay under Mike Holmgren and the Packers traded Mark Brunnel, Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks with Brett Favre as the starter.
What is Kolb worth? As one general manager said, it depends if Stanford junior quarterback Andrew Luck declares his intention to enter the draft. Most feel that the compensation involved in the Matt Schaub or Matt Cassel trades is the benchmark. At least a second-round pick sounds like a starting point, but if I were Reid, knowing the way Vick plays and risk for injury, I might not part ways with Kolb for less than a late first-round pick. Kolb played the whole game in Week 17 and went 18 of 36 for 162 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Kolb has seven career starts with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Schaub only had two starts in Atlanta with six touchdowns and six interceptions before he was dealt.