The Coaching Carousel
Seahawks—Mora is out and rumors are flying that USC Coach Carroll will be his replacement. I believe that will happen. However, in compliance with the NFL policy of requiring an interview of at least one minority candidate, the team has asked to interview others. The Hawks were 10-6 and in the playoffs in 07 but stumbled to 4-12 last year under then lame duck coach Holmgren. Mora had been named “HC in waiting” in the 08 pre season and took over to begin the 09 season. He went 5-11.
Raiders—The Cable will be cut. HC Tom Cable is hanging on by a thread. And worse yet, Owner Davis is standing above him with a pair of scissors. Cable doesn’t have much respect in the locker room or in the bosses office. He asked for a meeting with benched former 1st pick over all QB Russell but the later blew his coach off and left town. Cable will be gone soon.
Jets @ Bengals
The Jets beat Cincy 37-0 in week 17. That will not be the case in the Wild Card round. There is no chance that Bengal QB Palmer will cooperate like he did in that game completing just 1 out of 11 attempts. Also, Cincy RB Benson was held out of that game. He will play Saturday.
The Jets will rely on the running game because they don’t trust their rookie QB Sanchez. He has not thrown a TD in the last 2 games. Since week 8 he has thrown 4 TDs and 10 picks. The running game is built around 2 pro-bowl players (C Mangold and G Faneca) on the line and RB Jones carrying the rock. He has scored 14 TDs (because they didn’t trust Sanchez throwing in the red zone) but has only averaged 4.2 per attempt. The Bengals held Jones to 2.9 per carry in the game last week. That was similar to his production against the Falcons where he was held to 2.7 per attempt. If he can not reach 4 per carry, the Jets will lose. The danger is that they will fall behind without passing and be forced to throw the ball. That will cost them a win as well.
The Jet D has played well over their heads. HC Ryan has inspired the D to become the #1 D in the league. However that ranking is a bit misleading. They had a schedule where the teams against whom they played were not up to their 08 level. In their division neither the Bills nor the Dolphins were healthy enough to reach their 08 performance. Their non-division opponents like the Panthers were down as well. CB Revis is a pro-bowl player and is the classic shut down corner. He will be on WR OchoCinco. But there are 2 big questions. 1 Can the Jets get pressure on Palmer and 2 can they stop the running of Benson and company? To win they will have to do both.
This team has to have a short memory because they stunk the place up last week. But they were resting a number of their top players. The motivation will be significantly greater this week. Palmer has to be more accurate. But more than that, the receivers have to catch the ball. Out of his 10 incompletions last week he had 5 drops.
Benson will be the key to the game. If the O line can give him just a little room, the Jets will be chasing Benson all day long. That is the key to keeping the D honest and giving Palmer time to throw.
Defensively, they need to force the Jets into 3rd and long. That means shutting down the run on 1st and 2nd down.
Even though the Jets won easily last week, I am picking the Bengals to win. I don’t think Sanchez is up to the challenge of the playoffs.
Eagles @ Cowboys
The Birds laid an egg last week in Dallas or this game would have been in Philly. The biggest question of all is the health of RB Westbrook. If he is healthy or even 90%, the Birds have a good chance to win. If not the Boys will get to the divisional round. Philly needs him in the passing game as much as they need him to run the ball. He takes a lot of heat off of WR Jackson and opens up the passing game. He is also the relief valve for QB McNabb. The Birds allowed 4 sacks in each of their last 2 games and that has to stop if they are going to win. Westbrook had 20 catches in last weeks game.
Pass protection is critical against a revitalized Boys D.
The Eagle D has played well but rested several of their key player last week. They have to get in Romo’s face and stop the run to win. DTs Patterson and Bunkley have to keep the blockers off MLB Trotter to be successful.
The O has been playing much better down the stretch than they did in the past few seasons. Romo has not thrown the picks he has in the past after Dec. 1. After following their previous script losing the first 2 games, they won the last 3 including last week 24-0 over the Eagles. Romo has thrown 9 TDs with just 2 picks since 12/1. That is significantly better than he has done in the last 3 years when he was the starter. The running game has gotten better in the second half of the season as well. From week 11 on RB Barber has carried at least 14 times a game. He is averaging 4.4 per attempt. Romo needs the running game to work in order to be effective.
The Boys D has been different in the last few weeks also. HC Phillips took over the D and made a great difference. The Boys blitz more and have been more effective at getting to the QB. The D shut out both the Redskins and Eagles in the last 2 weeks. CBs Jenkins and Newman have to keep WR Jackson in their sights. When the Boys blitz, they will have to cover Jackson man to man. That can burn them.
The D won’t have to worry too much about the run because the Eagles won’t run much.
I have believed that the Boys would fall on their face in December 09 and they fooled me. But I no longer believe in the Eagles. The Boys will win.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .