With yesterday’s games, the NFL playoff scenarios were all worked out. Carolina easily beat Atlanta 34–3 to win the NFC South. That win makes them the fourth seed in the playoffs, and they will host Arizona next Saturday in the opening game. Carolina has played well the last part of the season, winning four in a row while Arizona has struggled because of injuries, especially at the quarterback position. That said, I have to go with Carolina to win this game.
Green Bay, despite a calf injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, held on to beat Detroit 30-20. The win gives Green Bay the NFC North title and a first round bye in the playoffs. The bye will come in handy as that gives Rodgers two weeks for the calf injury to heal.
Last night, Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati to win the AFC North. The AFC North will be the only division with three playoff teams, as both AFC Wild Card teams come from that division. All three will play next weekend, with Pittsburgh hosting Baltimore on Saturday and Cincinnati traveling to Indianapolis for the early Sunday game.
The most interesting game next week, may well be the final game of the weekend when Detroit travels to Dallas for Sunday’s late game. Those two teams will have the best records of the teams playing next week. Dallas is 12-4, while Detroit comes in at 11-5. Looking at end-of-season play, Dallas has been playing better football, but on paper, Detroit may have the better roster. Dallas is only 4-4 at home this year, while Detroit has the same 4-4 record on the road.
San Francisco’s 20 – 7 win over Arizona was Jim Harbaugh’s last game as Head Coach of the 49ers. Within minutes of the game ending, the 49ers released Harbaugh from his duties as Head Coach. That opened the door for Harbaugh to sign a very lucrative long term deal with his alma mater, Michigan.
According to an Albert Breer tweet this morning, there were NFL teams privately bidding for Harbaugh's services over the weekend. While technically that is against NFL rules, that was the only way an NFL club was going to compete for Harbaugh's services. Breer states that when the deal is finally signed, it may well be worth close to $9 million per year. That is obviously up from the 7-8 million per year estimates we were seeing earlier in the week.
With National Signing Day a little more than a month away, this is a deal that Michigan had to get done and they were going to pay whatever it took to close it. Harbaugh is an excellent recruiter, so don’t be surprised to see Michigan poach some recruits from other schools in the next few weeks. Jim Harbaugh is a proven NFL winner as a head coach, and that is difficult to find. General Manager Trent Balke has to be right with the next hire or he may well be on the outs in another couple of years.
With Harbaugh out in San Francisco, that is the first of, what are expected to be, many changes around the league today. Across the Bay in Oakland, interim coach Tony Sparano will most likely be released. The New York Jets, early this morning, did as expected and fired Head Coach Rex Ryan and General Manager John Idzik. Former longtime NFL general manager Charley Casserly is heading the search for the Jets to find a new coach and GM.
The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted this morning that Jets owner Woody Johnson felt he got “duped” into thinking Idzik had football knowledge and that that won’t happen this time around. The problem with the report is, at the time, Johnson interviewed a former longtime successful general manager and didn’t buy into his plan to fix the Jets. He did buy into Idzik's plan, which turned out to be no plan at all.
Atlanta has already hired a search firm to try and find a new coach to replace Mike Smith, who was let go this morning. It remains to be seen if General Manager Thomas Dimitroff will also be let go.
In Chicago, it was expected that second-year coach Mark Trestman would be fired. The players did not buy into his way of doing things, and he had virtually no respect in the locker room. But would General Manager Phil Emery would get an opportunity to hire his second head coach? This morning, it was confirmed that both Emery and Trestman are out. It also looks as if the Bears are going to hire a consultant to lead the search for a new coach and general manager. The problem with that approach is that these “consultants” have usually been out of the league for a while and the people they recommend are people they have had ties to. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
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