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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

Give our NFL Thoughts a peek this week and give some of your own in the comment section.

Wild Card Round - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

1) Super Wild Card Weekend was a lot of fun, and that’s coming from a guy that wasn’t really excited at the idea of having an extra playoff team in each conference. Those back to back triple headers made for a busy day of football, but for the most part, all six games were exciting.

The NFL is always looking for a way to make more money, so I would not be surprised to see them push for having an eighth playoff team per conference at some point. That would eliminate the top seed bye week, but it could make for more excitement down the stretch of the regular season with more teams alive for a playoff spot.

A 16-team playoff was already on the table for this season if there were games cancelled due to the pandemic, so you know the owners are thinking of how to make it a reality.

2) The surprise news from Monday was the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Doug Pederson parting ways. I don’t say fired because it sounded like Pederson wasn’t happy with the situation in Philly, with Ian Rapoport Tweeting that “Pederson was sick of people telling him what to do.”

I have to wonder if this has anything to do with his relationship with quarterback Carson Wentz.

Pederson benched him, reports circulated their relationship was fractured, so perhaps this is a case of the franchise still believing in the QB that they gave a 4 year, $128M contract to. If Wentz remains in Philadelphia as the starter we may have that answer.

3) The average ages of the conference’s starting quarterbacks still playing are wild.

Several young quarterbacks took steps forward this season, and with rumors circulating that this could be the final season for Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, we could have only a handful of grizzled vet QBs throwing passes in 2021.

4) Of all the wild card games, the only one that truly surprised me was seeing the Cleveland Browns stomp the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh fought back to make it a game, but the Browns settled down and answered when they had to in the 4th quarter.

I just figured with their coach (and playcaller) forced to stay at home, and with limited practice time during the week, that the experienced Steelers would be too much for them. I’m glad I was wrong, because Cleveland is a fun team to watch when they’re clicking.

5) Washington’s Taylor Heinicke, in just the second start of his career, completed 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, had 1 TD and 1 pick, and rushed for a TD on 6 carries for 46 yards. He played with an unexpected poise that is certain to get the free agent to be an actual NFL contract in 2021.

He was a practice squdder most of the season until getting the call up mid December, but after that performance on the big stage he’s due a real deal.

6) The Houston Texans franchise is getting a bad reputation as a poorly run franchise. They paid consultants Korn Ferry hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them find a new general manager and then ignored the recommendations to hire Nick Caserio away from the Patriots.

They really may be forced to trade off Deshaun Watson, and they may need to move on from J.J. Watt too. A full rebuild could be on the horizon in Texas.

7) If he were an offensive coordinator instead of a defensive coordinator, the Rams Brandon Staley would be a lock to get one of the NFL head coach vacancies this cycle. He’s been interviewed by the Jets and Chargers, but it’s likely those two teams go with an offensive mind considering their quarterback situations.

The 38-year old former Bears outside linebackers coach has done a masterful job this year in L.A., and his game plan against the Seahawks in the playoffs is a big reason they pulled off the upset.

Staley could still get a head coaching gig this offseason, but it would take a team bucking the trend to go with the young defensive hot shot instead of the offensive one.

8) Twice-retired, 33-year old Jared Veldheer started at left tackle for the Indianapolis Colts in their week 17 game and then again on Saturday in their loss to the Buffalo Bills, but his playoff journey continues this week for the Packers.

9) Urban Meyer to the Jaguars is all but a done deal, and despite what many think of him on a personal level, that guy can coach. At four different schools he has a 187–32 record. Successful college coaches having similar success in the NFL is far from a guarantee, but I think Meyer will get things turned around quickly in Jacksonville.

10) Here’s my best guess on what happens with the Chicago Bears.

Team President Ted Phillips either retires or moves to a different position in the franchise with a new title.

Ryan Pace is promoted to Team President, but like Phillips before him, he won’t have control of the roster. The new general manager will have total control of the players.

Matt Nagy stays as head coach.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is fired or he resigns.

This isn’t what I would do, but from reading the tea leaves it’s what I can see coming.

10a) And about Mitchell Trubisky returning... I don’t see it as a team priority regardless of who is in charge in Chicago. I think he’ll be evaluated like every other free agent QB out there and depending on what happens with the market he may come back on a QB2 type of deal.

This clip of an interview from New Orleans defensive end Cam Jordan says a lot without saying much.

10b) Ratings!