More thoughts from Week 17:
1. Jeff Fisher -- He will be the most sought-after coach this year. In speaking to someone familiar with his thinking, Fisher is looking for a situation that has a good working environment. This means everyone is on the same page working toward the same goal. He will look at the team's personnel, especially the talent at quarterback. Finally, he will want a franchise that is committed to winning. I don't think the highest bidder will win this one.
2. Andy Reid -- The decision to retain Juan Castillo will be interesting from a couple of different angles. Andy Reid and Juan Castillo have a close relationship. Reid asked him to take over the defense knowing there would be a learning curve for Castillo. The Eagles have weaknesses at linebacker and safety, which especially show up in the scheme the Eagles have used this year. Also, signing Nnamdi Asomugha is a good long-term move, but not with Asante Samuel. Next year, I would let Samuel go and then Asomugha can be used as a shutdown corner like Revis. That means putting him on the team's best receiver, no matter where he lines up. They can't do that now, because Samuel can play only the left side, which limits how Philadelphia can use Asomugha. The Eagles defense has improved steadily under Castillo. In fact, entering the last week of the season, the Eagles were eighth in the NFL in total defense (second in the NFL). In points allowed, they finished the season 10th in the NFL and third in the NFC. These stats have been totally overlooked.
3. Mike Mularkey -- Atlanta's offensive coordinator has gotten the second most mention by clubs potentially looking for a head coach to me this year. The reasons are because of his development of Matt Ryan and his previous head coaching experience at Buffalo.
4. Kyle Orton -- The releasing of Kyle Orton can have a few different schools of thought. There is the thought that Orton is a good guy and he asked for his release, and since he is not going to play anymore for you, you help him out by giving him a chance to play for someone else this season. There is also the thought that since Tebow was 4-1, you now clear the locker room of any distractions, because Orton will definitely not play this year because of Tebow's winning record and the fact you decided that you definitely want to look at Tebow for the rest of the season. There is also the thought that you not only save the money ($2.6 million) by cutting Orton, but you pick up that cap room to help you in the future, which makes some sense. I took the competitive point of view of not letting your opponents (KC and Chicago) who were hurting at QB a chance to beat you with Orton. The idea of picking up the cap room is not necessarily a bad idea because you are a building team.
5. Adrian Peterson -- The medical report is he should be ready by Week 1, but my experience with knee surgeries is the player will be even better the following year.
|More on Week 17|
|NFL coverage on the go|
More thoughts from Week 17:
1. Indianapolis -- They have the first pick in the draft. They have said all along they would take a QB if one is there. Well, one is there in the name of Andrew Luck. I have no doubt they will take him, and they should take him. The other decisions they have to make are who will be the head coach next year and whether to bring Peyton Manning back. There is strong sentiment to bring Jim Caldwell back. Ultimately, owner Jim Irsay will make the call. I would bring Caldwell back. Why fire him this year? Is he any less of a coach this year than last? I don't think so. He held the team together. They played hard all year for him. As for Peyton Manning, I believe the Colts will bring him back if he is healthy. This would be a perfect transition to bring Luck along in the Colts offense. You could see players like Reggie Wayne leave depending upon what money he is offered elsewhere, but I don't think there will be much of a market for him. I doubt Jeff Saturday will be back. I expect Robert Mathis to be a priority to re-sign as a UFA. I think with Manning, the Colts will make a big rebound next year.
2. Interim Coaches -- All three interim coaches: Romeo Crennell (KC), Todd Bowles (Miami) and Mel Tucker (Jacksonville) finished with 2-1 records. Each team will give them consideration for their head jobs. I think Romeo Crennell stands the best chance of retaining his position. He has a long relationship with GM Scott Pioli, and if they bring in Josh McDaniels to tutor Matt Cassell, they have possibly an heir apparent to compensate for Romeo's age and the question of what to do in the future. Mel Tucker has always been a favorite of the Jacksonville administration because of his coaching ability. He will have to have a clear plan on how to develop Blaine Gabbert; that will be a key part to anybody's interview for that head coaching position. Jacksonville told me it wasn't necessarily looking for a coach with prior head coaching experience; the main attribute they were looking for was a leader. In the case of Todd Bowles, he has a long relationship with GM Jeff Ireland dating back to their days with the Dallas Cowboys. I am sure Steve Ross will go after Jeff Fisher, the biggest name in this year's class, but I don't believe Fisher will go to Miami. Bowles certainly helped himself by his showing in the last three games. If nothing works out for him this year, he has helped himself for the future.
3. Denver -- Congratulations to the Broncos for winning the division. John Fox improved his defense and rebuilt the running game. The Broncos lost to the Chiefs and, in a sense, backed in, but that means nothing next week when they will play Pittsburgh. The signing of Willis McGahee was brilliant; he outperformed even Denver's expectations and gave them a back to build their running game around. Tim Tebow continued to struggle performance (6 for 22, 60 yards) against KC. You can't tell much from TV how well he reads coverages, but when you see a QB hold the ball, that is not a good sign he knows what he is doing. It is clear people are doing a better job of defending him. The plan is to keep him in the pocket, and especially to prevent him running and throwing to his left. And defenses aren't allowing ucontested throws, especially in the closing minutes of the game, which Chicago and Miami did. I don't see the Broncos going anywhere in the playoffs. Also, one of Denver's objectives was to find out if it had a QB for the future. I don't think it is Tim Tebow. I have studied almost every one of his games on tape, and that is what my conclusion is. I have not seen the improvement in his accuracy and in reading defenses that I hoped for. They still don't know about Brady Quinn, but if I were the Broncos, I would not pass on a quarteback in the draft I liked.
4. Houston -- Houston lost its third straight, though it looked better on offense against Tennessee then it had in its previous couple of games. The Texans held Arian Foster out of the game and Andre Johnson played sparingly. They pulled T.J. Yates after he went to the locker room in the first quarter. The Texans told me they kept Yates out of the game for non-injury reasons. This gave Jake Delhomme a chance to play. He did a credible job, going 18 of 28 for 211 yards and one touchdown. I was impressed enough with him that if Yates struggles in the playoffs against Cincinnati, I would insert him in the game. The other point that was evident in this game was opponents will target whoever the corner is opposite Jonathan Joseph, and that corner has struggled no matter whom it has been: primarily Jason Allen or Kareem Jackson. Next week against the Bengals, I am sure they will put Jonathan Joseph on A.J. Green, and whoever else starts on Jerome Simpson. I think A.J. Green will be able to make plays on Joseph, and Simpson will be able to beat whatever corner they put on him.
5. New York Jets -- A bitterly disappointing loss ended their season. The Jets have a number of issues to confront. The first will be whether to retain offensive coordinator Brian Schoettenheimer. I was told going in to the game that no decision had been made on whether he will be kept. As for Mark Sanchez, the Jets must find a better way to get the ball downfield to their wide receivers, which they couldn't do Sunday. Especially disappointing was the lack of production from Santonio Holmes. When they added Holmes, there was some question on his attitude, but Rex Ryan feels he can coach players with attitude issues, as long as he has a strong core group of players. I am not sure he has the right mix of veteran leadership on offense. These issues on offense will be the primary focus of the Jets' offseason.
6. New Orleans -- Their offense continued to shine and Drew Brees was outstanding again. He set numerous records, among them most passing yards (5,476), passing percentage (71.2) and 300-yard passing games (13) for a season. This team is hot right now, and that is the way you want to go into the playoffs. It still amazes me they were able to sign Darren Sproles without much competition. Even though Reggie Bush had a good year for Miami, Sproles was better. Sproles set a single-season NFL record with 2,696 all-purpose yards. This is a credit to Sproles, but also how Sean Payton used him. Losing Sproles was a major mistake for the Chargers. I see the Saints beating Detroit next week in a shootout, setting up a matchup with the 49ers in San Francisco.
7. Cincinnati -- The Bengals secured the final AFC playoff spot despite losing to Baltimore. Big plays by Ray Rice and a key turnover late in the game cost Cincinnati the victory. But the Bengals gaining a playoff spot in the tough AFC North was one of the most remarkable stories of the year. They couldn't Pittsburgh or Baltimore, but most teams didn't beat those teams, either. They did play them tough, and the mental toughness they gain will help during the playoffs. Houston barely beat them last time, needing a last-minute drive by T.J. Yates to win it, but the drive was aided by key penalties that hurt them late in the game. I like Cincy's chances against Houston. It will be like a homecoming for rookie QB Andy Dalton; he played football at Houston powerhouse Katy High School.
8. Green Bay -- Matt Flynn, in his second career start, set franchise records by passing for 480 yards and six touchdowns. It was quite an audition for free agency; he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With the limited number of QBs available in free agency, among them Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell, Flynn will be the most interesting. The Packers like him and feel he can be a starter in the NFL. The Packers like his leadership ability, work ethic and intelligence. They also called him a "winner." There has been limited film on him for scouts to look at, which would be only preseason and a regular-season game against New England last season. One scout I talked to before Sunday's game from a team that needs a QB was not impressed. It will be interesting to see what he thinks now. His concerns were that Flynn had a long release, would force balls, had an average arm, and was unaware of pressure. He felt that Flynn benefited from the system he was in with the talent around him and thought he had only backup potential in the NFL.
9. Baltimore -- They won a tough game on the road against Cincinnati and won John Harbaugh his first division title. This gives them a first-round bye with a record of 12-4. The Ravens called this a playoff game and played with that intensity. They played to their formula of running the ball and working their passing game in. For them to be successful, that's how the offense should look. Ray Rice, whom I think gets overshadowed in the NFL by some other backs (like Matt Forte), had a big day. Rice rushed for 191 yards, but even more impressive, had two long touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards. Rice is an unrestricted free agent next year and will be Baltimore's No. 1 priority to get signed in the offseason. If the Ravens don't get him signed, they will franchise him. Joe Flacco was efficient, completing 15 of 19 for 130 yards and one touchdown. I like Baltimore's chances to win the AFC title with the bye week and at least one home playoff game. I don’t know if Joe Flacco would have three consecutive good games throwing the ball if they were all on the road, but with two games to get to the Super Bowl, one of which is at home, I think he can do it.
10. For the 16th consecutive season, at least five teams made the playoffs that did not make the playoffs the previous year. Here are my favorites to make the playoffs next year (among the teams that did not make the playoffs this year): Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers.
You can follow Charley Casserly on Twitter at CasserlyCBS