Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be getting the band back together. - Jonathan Daniel

Even though the Chicago Bears will be home for the playoffs, I have to admit that this was a pretty spectacular NFL season. Here's my week 17 thoughts, and be sure to chime in with a few of your own in the comment section!

First off, Have a Happy and Safe New Year!

Now down to business...

1) I think this is the second year in a row I missed on my 'Rex Ryan will be the first coach fired' prediction. His players all seem to love him and they play hard for him, and the New York Jets ownership seems to like him. I guess at the end of the day, that's all you need to stick around. He does have a winning record in his five seasons (42-38).

If they ever figure out their offense, they'll be back in the playoff mix. That sounds familiar...

2) Another surprising coaching non-move was in Dallas. I can't believe Jerry Jones is sticking with Jason Garrett. I think moving forward he'll have to figure out a way to run the ball a little more to find success.

3) If I was a free agent to be, I'd scratch Cleveland off my list of potential destinations. When a local reporter asks the owner or the Three Stooges are running the team, you know it's bad.

Also, when Josh McDaniels is rumored to be their top choice, I wonder if Tim Tebow could find his way back to the NFL?

4) So now Lovie Smith is rumored to be a top choice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but it's not just Lovie who's on their radar. Former Chicago GM Jerry Angelo and former Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell are rumored to be part of the new and improved Bucs front office.

5) I think the most attractive coaching vacancy is in Detroit. That Lions roster is full of talent, and if they get a quality coach in there who can rein in some of their idiotic tendencies, they could be a playoff threat next year.

6) In a season of blown calls, I think it was fitting that referee error may have altered the playoff seedings in the AFC. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a legitimate gripe after the mistake in San Diego.

7) I think the rules on what is a reviewable call and what isn't are too restrictive. A head coach only has two challenge flags, so why not open him up to more options. A referee error, like that field goal I referenced above, should be reviewable. So should something like a team not snapping the ball until after the play clock expires.

8) My Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl prediction is still alive, how did your preseason predictions shape up?

9) A lot of Chicago Bears fans were pining for Rod Marinelli, the d-line guru that decided to take his coaching skills to Dallas. But do you realize that the Cowboys only had 3 more sacks than the Bears? And I know the Bears' run defense was historically awful and ranked dead last at 32nd, but Dallas' run D was ranked 27th. Overall the Cowboys defense allowed a league worst 415.3 yards per game, the Bears weren't that much better defensively, but they were better at 394.6.

10) I had no problem whatsoever with the Bears blitzing Aaron Rodgers on that 4th and 8. You can not play a passive zone in that situation, especially with the lack of pass rush the Bears have had most of the season. Rodgers has the experience to patiently pick apart any zone the Bears may have called.

Here's what FOX analyst Troy Aikman said of the play;

"What a job John Kuhn does to come over and get enough, just enough, of Julius Peppers off the edge," Aikman said on the replay of the 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb. "And Aaron Rodgers able to buy a little time. Now in the back, Chris Conte as I said he sits on the first-down marker thinking that they are going to throw the ball short. They also could have gotten (Bears safety) Major Wright for pass interference. ... That is not an easy throw Aaron Rogers moving to his left. A lot of good things on that play that had to happen for the Packers to come away with a touchdown."

Conte, and the Bears, expected all the Green Bay receivers to shorten their routes when the Bears sent the blitz, because that's what an offense is supposed to do in that situation. Run a slant or run to the 1st down marker and turn around.

Packers wide out Randall Cobb said as much post game.

"As soon as I came off the ball," said Cobb. "I actually had a hook route about 10, 12 yards. I saw the safety was flatfooted, so I just threw my hand up - instead of the move. And Aaron was able to find me."

Cobb deviated from his route because of his familiarity in the offense and with his quarterback. Had the Bears contained Rodgers in the pocket he doesn't make that throw.

Peppers getting knocked down deserves as much blame on the play as does Conte, but it was three great individual efforts by the Packers that netted them the game winner. The throw and the alertness by Rodgers, the route change and catch by Cobb, and the block by Kuhn.

What were some of your thoughts on week 17 in the NFL, and on Black Monday?

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