No sooner had the last flake of confetti fallen in Miami that next year's Super Bowl odds were posted. Not surprisingly, the Colts are the favorite to do what they couldn't achieve this season. Everybody of consequence returns for the Colts next season. Linebacker Gary Brackett is scheduled to be a unrestricted free agent and Antoine Bethea is a restricted free agent, but both are expected to return to Indianapolis. With that in mind, here's a look at the biggest questions that need answered this offseason among the AFC teams.
Grading out the performances from the Colts' 30-17 victory over the Jets in the AFC title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from P.J.'s Coffee Shop in Uptown New Orleans, where I have come to try to figure out if the Jets have another miracle-of-the-road left in them, whether Brett Favre will live to fight another Golden Age day and whether the Saints can stop the most relentless playoff pass-rush we've seen since the Ravens laid waste to the Giants a decade ago.
A year after he promised to build a bully's defense that would one day carry the Jets to the White House lawn, Rex Ryan's vision stands two good Sundays from reality. He confused Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, pushed around Philip Rivers in San Diego, only to earn an afternoon with maybe the best quarterback of this generation.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Peyton Manning has masked many deficiencies since he arrived in Indianapolis 11 years ago -- first a secondary that couldn't cover, then a front-seven that couldn't tackle, then a receiving corps made up mostly of rookies and now a couple of tailbacks who look like they're on treadmills, forever running in place.
In an era of 32-team leagues, championship hopes are slim for almost everybody. What you really want is belief.
The postgame reports said the Jets sealed their upset win over the Chargers last week when Kerry Rhodes recovered an onside kick, allowing his team to run the final two minutes off the clock.
Some of his trademark bravado might be tempered a bit by time, but you can still tell it's Buddy Ryan on the other end of the phone. That much comes through loud and clear, even at age 75.
Breaking down the AFC Championship Game matchup, Jets at Colts, Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, CBS
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we contemplate the final three games of the NFL's postseason and dissect news from around the league.....
News item: Chan Gailey will be introduced as Buffalo's new coach today, and the Bills are laying low beforehand, knowing they're going to get rapped heavily for it and figuring they should put on a united front when they make their case. Four observations:
SAN DIEGO -- I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict the Colts will play their starters the whole way against the Jets this time.
Grading out the performances from the Jets' 17-14 win over the Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs ...
SAN DIEGO -- Best weekend of the year in the NFL, always. And especially this year, because of the weirdness of the end of the season, when the two top NFC seeds had some very shaky moments and the Colts took their annual late-season siesta.
Breaking down the AFC divisional matchup, Jets at Chargers, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Time for the best weekend of the NFL season, when the elite eight pair off in four must-see divisional-round playoff games. Here are eight of the best storylines still looming:
Is that it? Has the curtain officially been drawn on the golden era of New England sports?
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight after taking in three-fourths of the NFL wild-card playoff weekend and preparing to write a separate story after attending the fourth game ...
Grading the performances from the Jets' 24-14 victory over the Bengals in Cincinnati, the first of four wild-card weekend games.
CINCINNATI -- Jets head coach Rex Ryan passed out an itinerary to his players this week detailing all the activities he has scheduled for the next month -- wild-card game, divisional playoff game, AFC championship game and Super Bowl. "It even had the Super Bowl parade," said cornerback Darrelle Revis.
When's the last time you recall all four wild-card games being so competitive you wouldn't be surprised to see the road team win any one? Two roadies won last year, and three won in 2005. This year, I don't care what Vegas says. It's even-steven across the board entering the weekend.
Even more stuff you need to know before the NFL playoffs kick off this weekend with four first-round games...
Breaking down the AFC wild-card matchup, Ravens at Patriots, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Breaking down the AFC wild-card matchup, Jets at Bengals, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Let's just say it, because we know you're all thinking it: Jets coach Rex Ryan is one odd duck.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 17 that had a little bit of everything, except for any real high drama when it comes to how the Ravens, Jets and Cowboys won their showdown games Sunday and finalized the 12-team playoff field.....
Happy New Year to all. Can't believe the growth in the interest in this game, and in web coverage of the NFL. At the start of this decade, I wrote once a week for this Web site -- Monday Morning Quarterback, maybe 1,500 to 2,000 words -- and now, well, it's pretty much gone out of control, with 10,000 to 12,000 words a week in-season.
When the New York Jets face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday for what may be the final football game played at Giants Stadium, fans in attendance won't be able to drown their sorrows or toast a victory.
My weekly look at key matchups and storylines to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern).
Yes, the Indianapolis Colts thing has already been wrestled to the ground and kicked a few times by now, but I want to point out some interesting work by brilliant blog reader Jonathan Joyce on the subject that might startle you. Well, "startle" might be an overstatement. I don't suppose I have been startled by football stats in a while.* The point is, it's good stuff.
NEW YORK -- Clinching scenarios for Week 17, according to the NFL:
Groundhog's Day isn't until February, but in the Bill Murray movie sense it could come a month earlier in the NFL. That's because two Week 17 games --Packers-Cardinals and Eagles-Cowboys -- could repeat on the schedule the very next week in the wild-card round. In fact, we project that exact scenario will play out in the NFC.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we stare down both the holidays and the final 32 games of the NFL's regular season.....
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a Week 15 that was chock-full of drama, record-setting performances and thrilling comebacks and conclusions. With Christmas just around the corner, who could ask for anything more?....
NEW YORK -- Fourteen things you need to know on the heels of Week 14:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a compelling Week 14 that featured numerous close calls, but no real signature upsets -- at least after the lowly Browns knocked the humbled Steelers from the throne Thursday night in Cleveland ...
PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Peyton Manning, Colts The Colts are the winningest regular-season team in the decade, and Manning's immense presence, skill, accuracy and mastery of the offense are the biggest reasons. Twenty years ago, Fran Tarkenton was the all-time leader in passing yards, with 47,003. Barring some surprise in the last month of this regular season, Manning will finish 2009 with more than 42,000 in this decade alone. He is not the leader of his offense; he is the commandant.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take stock of where things stand in the NFL as the final four weeks of the regular season come into focus (that's 64 games and counting down if you're keeping track)....
1. Randy Moss to the Patriots from the Raiders for a fourth-round pick; April 29, 2007 On draft weekend, the team-minded Patriots shocked the NFL by dealing for Moss, whose talent as a game-changing receiver had supposedly atrophied during his two mostly desultory seasons in Oakland. But Moss, as it turns out, was merely disinterested in losing, and his reemergence in New England coincided with the team's history-making Super Bowl season. Moss caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and had a single-season NFL record 23 touchdowns. All in all, not bad production in exchange for a fourth-round pick that Oakland used to select little-known University of Cincinnati cornerback John Bowie.
1. The hit that launched a dynasty. When Jets linebacker Mo Lewis slammed into Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe near the sideline late in a Week 2 game at New York on Sept. 23, 2001, it initially looked like a very bad break for New England. The hit caused the Pro Bowl passer to suffer internal bleeding, knocked him out of action for weeks and forced the Patriots to play untested second-year backup Tom Brady long before they intended.
Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from a spectacularly lucky Week 13 when it comes to doses of late-game drama, huge upsets and scintillating finishes.
NEW ORLEANS -- They billed this one as the biggest regular-season game in New Orleans Saints history, and while that was a mouthful to be sure, you couldn't argue about there being an electric, almost Super Bowl-like atmosphere in the sold-out Superdome Monday night.
I think I can speak for all of America today by saying, "Wow.''
Breaking down Mondays New England Patriots at New Orleans Saints game (8:30 p.m., ESPN)...
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills consider two-time Super Bowl-winner Mike Shanahan a legitimate candidate to be their next head coach.
DENVER -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the Mile High City as we run down the curious doings of Week 11 in the NFL ...
With Dick Jauron's demise in Buffalo this week, the first domino has fallen in the NFL's annual exercise known as hiring/firing season. While nowhere near as many head coaching vacancies are expected this year compared to last year's record bloodletting, when 11 teams changed the guy in the No. 1 headset, you can be sure Jauron won't be the only one shown the door.
This was supposed to be the season the Wildcat evolved to the next level and swept through the NFL. A year after the Miami Dolphins used it to surprising success, coaches from coast to coast were expected to implement it as a game-changer, to keep defenses off balance and grab big chunks of yardage.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson blew it Tuesday. Not because he fired coach Dick Jauron, who was 24-33 in three-plus seasons, including 5-14 in his last 19 games; because he failed to look at the real problem holding down his team: the absence of a proven personnel man to run his football operations.
Can't resist a few more lingering thoughts in the continuing aftermath of "Bill-gate,'' perhaps the perfect NFL storm for the cacophony of debate that the 24/7 news cycle generates and thrives on.....
• If I had been on the Patriots' sideline Sunday night, I might have seen it a different way, but I hated Bill Belichick's call to go for it on fourth-and-two against the Colts. As a player, you get shortsighted when you're involved in the game. On every fourth-and-two in my career I guarantee I was saying, "Give me the ball." And I'm sure the players on that New England sideline were down with the move. That's the nice thing about being a player -- it was never your call. "Blame the coach! I'm just doing what he says." You can get away with being irrational as a player. It ain't your say and it ain't your fault. Maybe Tom Brady liked it, but players aren't in the right frame of mind to make that call.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In Patriots lore, it'll forever be known as "The Call,'' the ultimate example of some Bill Belichick bravado that backfired.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we draw near to putting the finishing touches on Week 10 ...
The NFL's 256-game regular season is half gone (actually 50.4 percent, but who's counting?) You know the drill. It's midseason review time...
Though it threatens to become as over-played as the no-respect angle, did you notice how the revenge factor was all the rage in the NFL on Sunday?
Ricky Williams visited a video store recently and gave Madden '10 the ultimate test ride: He took the control and ran the Wildcat in the Dolphins' offense. It was like Woody Allen stepping inside the screen.
For downtrodden organizations out of playoff conversations for years, achieving any type of success can be difficult. Teams like St. Louis, Kansas City and Detroit are trying to get any wins they can, hoping to string a couple together and build momentum. But that's just part of contender-building and not even the most difficult. The next step is sustaining success and then handling the prosperity that comes with winning.
ATLANTA -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we try to make some sense of Week 6...
Whether they'll ever admit it or not, a fast start in the NFL gets everyone -- fans, media, players, and even play-'em-one-at-a-time coaches -- dreaming about a magical run through January and the road trip to the game that's so big they use Roman numerals to identify it. Which way to the press conferences?
One would think that there would be a palpable buzz in an NFL locker room before a prime time game on national TV. A heightened sense of anticipation, at the very least. Instead, our locker room was the flattest I had ever encountered in all my years of football, and everyone in there, from coaches to players to the equipment and training staffs, looked as if they had seen a ghost.
DALLAS -- Whoa. I picked a heck of time to skip a Monday-nighter to go to see U2 at JerryWorld. Great game, from the looks of the highlights, with Chad Henne and the Wildcat proving the Dolphins are going to be a factor in the AFC East (one game separates the Jets, Pats and Fish with 11 to play), and Rex Ryan having some holes to plug on his defense. For more on the game, go here and here.
Maybe Rex Ryan was more accurate than he knows when he took to the postgame podium Monday night in Miami and fumed that his defense made "that quarterback look like Dan Marino.''
MIAMI -- The Dolphins and Jets have staged some games that grab you by the throat. The Jets once scored 23 points in the fourth quarter and won in overtime. The Dolphins' Dan Marino once faked spiking the ball and threw a winning touchdown.
Musings, observations and the occasional Week 5 insight as we adjust our TV's vertical hold to handle those hideous brown and mustard-colored vertically-striped socks the Broncos hopefully will put back into the time capsule after their showdown with the Patriots late Sunday afternoon ...
My weekly look at key matchups and storylines to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern).
Things we know (or at least think we do) one month into the NFL's regular season....
NEW YORK (SI.com) -- Patriots running back Fred Taylor underwent surgery Thursday to repair severe ligament damage in his right ankle and could miss the rest of the season, according to the Boston Globe, which cited a league source.
In taking the Braylon Edwards problem off the Browns' hands Wednesday, the New York Jets have made another bold move to win now and win big in the AFC East in the first year of the Rex Ryan era.
NEW ORLEANS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we take stock of Week 4 while simultaneously watching the Jets-Saints big-stage duel of undefeateds in a raucous and sold-out Superdome ...
NEW ORLEANS -- With both teams coming into Week 4 undefeated at 3-0, it sounds entirely wrong to say we're surprised the New Orleans Saints were able to beat the New York Jets Sunday afternoon at a Superdome made delirious by the 24-10 win.
Breaking down Sunday's New York Jets at New Orleans Saints game (4:05 p.m., CBS)...
In the four seasons of the Sean Payton era in New Orleans, there have been precious few ovations to be heard for the beleaguered Saints defense. But the roar that went up early Sunday evening in the visiting locker room at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium was not for Drew Brees and another dazzling display of offensive firepower, it was for new Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the unit that is finally starting to make some noise of its own.
The Jets have it. So do the Broncos. I'm pretty sure the 49ers still have it, even though they lost on Sunday. And who knows, the Lions may have just started to get it after snapping that 19-game losing streak. I'm talking about momentum, of course, which is a very real thing in the NFL.
We're just three weeks into the NFL's new season, and it's already starting to distinguish itself mightily from its predecessor, as seems to be the case each and every year in Roger Goodell's 32-team fiefdom.
The sky is falling in Tennessee, they're on suicide watch in Pittsburgh and dogs and cats are living together in Buffalo.
My weekly look at key matchups and storylines to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern)
Nothing against Mark Sanchez, because New York's rookie quarterback has been everything the Jets hoped for and more, but when you go fifth overall in the draft, the bar of expectation is set ridiculously high. The more intriguing story through the first two weeks of the NFL's 2009 season is how much early impact teams are getting from the most unlikely of sources.
Throughout the 2009 NFL season, SI.com's Adam Duerson will work with Jerome Bettis to get the six-time Pro Bowl running back's observations about the previous week's games. Bettis retired from the NFL in 2006 after a 13-year career.
I awoke Monday morning in Dallas, where the sky was obviously falling after the 1-1 Cowboys humiliated themselves with the whole world watching by losing at the last second to the Giants in their new billion-dollar ballpark. Oh, and while we're at it, what's the story with Tony Romo (again)?
Except for one play, I absolutely loved Miami's approach to the Monday night game against the Colts. Reminded me of the way the man who put all the Dolphins' pieces in place, VP of football operations Bill Parcells, positioned the Giants to play the Super Bowl against Buffalo 19 seasons ago.
"It will be the sexiest place in town!" the singer tells PEOPLE
What I learned while watching the Colts beat the Dolphins 27-23 on Monday night in Miami....
The New England Patriots have lost football games under Bill Belichick before, but who can remember the last time they lost their composure?
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as I find myself darn near hypnotized by the super-sized video boards that Jerry Jones has erected at the spanking new Cowboys Stadium, a.k.a. Jerry's World ...
There's a lot to look forward to this weekend in the league -- Jake Delhomme and Jay Cutler trying to redeem themselves, the debut of the new Dallas stadium and its 168-foot-wide high-def TV hanging over the field, Rex Ryan putting up or shutting up, and the Lions trying to make me look smart for picking them to beat the Vikings. But the game that fascinates me is Baltimore at the beat-up Chargers in San Diego's home opener.
For a reason that even Tom Brady couldn't fathom, he entered the huddle in Monday night's season-opener against Buffalo down 11 with 5:32 left in the game and, eerily, predicted the future.
Nice guys may not finish last in the NFL, but already it is looking as if the best "nice" coaches should hope for is the Wild Card.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots have trimmed their quarterbacks to two on the depth chart by releasing Andrew Walter on Friday.
Sitting down to write my annual NFL predictions column, I'm reminded of a few things we didn't know about the 2008 season at this time last year. Such as:
Musings, observations and the occasional insight from an eventful and jam-packed Thursday night of preseason football ...
The interminable NFL offseason -- 221 days long this year for those of you keeping score at home -- is about to end.
You know the drill by now. It's time to recap some winners and losers from Week 3 of the preseason. While the games don't count, the perceptions sure do.....
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- The future is now for the new face of the New York Jets, Mark Sanchez.
They are the first female African-Americans to hold an ownership stake in a NFL franchise
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we re-cap the winners and losers of the second week of the NFL's preseason schedule. The games don't count, but the perceptions sure do.....
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Ben Reiter had to say about the Patriots' camp in Foxborough, Mass. For an archive of all the camp postcards, click here.
The rest of the league was no doubt looking on, and you have to figure they were thinking roughly the same thing I was thinking Thursday night as I watched the most scrutinized first half of an NFL preseason game in recent memory:
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Andrew Lawrence had to say about the Dolphins' camp in Davie, Fla. For an archive of all the camp postcards, click here.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Ross Tucker had to say about the Jets camp in New York.