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18 Biggest Winners and Losers from the NFL's Week 17

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIJanuary 2, 2012

18 Biggest Winners and Losers from the NFL's Week 17

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    The 2011 NFL regular season is officially over. 

    For some teams this comes as a relief, as it means no more losing, no more heartbreaks (Colts, Rams, Dolphins and Redskins). For other teams it means time to prepare for the playoffs.

    If you're a fan of any of the playoff teams, congratulations (except for Broncos fans, I'll explain later in this piece). 

    A lot of teams, though, leave 2011 with regret. Teams that showed so much promise either before the season or at the beginning of the season find themselves going home getting ready to fire a head coach, make a run for Peyton Manning, or retooling their team through the draft and free agency. If you're the New York Jets, you're probably doing all of the above. 

    Some teams this week got a more advantageous playoff seeding, some coaches were able to keep their jobs.

    For other teams, they either missed the playoffs or their coaches just wrote their own pink slip. Here we'll look at the teams that won and the teams that lost, and some of it has nothing to do with the final results on the scoreboard. 

    So why have 18? Simple, nine of each. Why nine of each? Look at the picture.

    In a bittersweet way, Miami Dolphins fans are winners and losers. We're winners because we got to see Jason Taylor play for 13 out of his 15 seasons in the NFL, and he got to go out on top in a victory over the hated New York Jets (the team he played for last season), which knocked the Jets out of the playoffs. 

    However, we're losers because we're still a 6-10 team that's unsure of our quarterback and head coach and will likely lose some popular players due to the cap next season. 

    But let's keep it positive—I chose 18 as a tribute to Jason Taylor, Miami's No. 99. Hopefully, Miami will do the right thing and retire his (and his brother-in-law Zack Thomas') numbers next season and induct them into the ring of honor. 

    And, hopefully, it's against the Norv Turner-Peyton Manning-led New York Jets. 

    Now on to the list. 

Indianapolis Colts-Winners

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    How does a 2-14 team who lost to a 5-11 team that talent-wise could be considered their equal get themselves considered "winners"? 

    This happens when you're the Indianapolis Colts and you have options. 

    Every Peyton Manning-related story I've heard in the last month tells me he's healthy and will be ready to go next year, so the Colts have quite a few options to play with.

    Option No. 1: draft Andrew Luck, let Peyton Manning go and not have to absorb the cap hit he'll inflict (no team will trade for him because of said cap hit). 

    Option No. 2: draft Andrew Luck, have him learn from Peyton Manning for a season or two (the most volatile option, since it could either be productive for Luck or just create an ongoing quarterback controversy). 

    Option No. 3: trade the No. 1 pick to any team looking at picking up a quarterback (Miami, Washington, Seattle) and score a bevy of draft picks to help build a team around Peyton Manning AND draft his eventual successor in the same draft (Kellen Moore perhaps). 

    Either way you have to admit, the Colts are in a great situation, and that's without mentioning that they're in the NFL's weakest division and could possibly go right back to being 10-6 next season no matter which option they choose. 

    I know 2011 hurt, but in 2012 it must feel good to be a Colts fan. 

St. Louis Rams-Losers

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    Last week during his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column on SI.com, Peter King called the St. Louis Rams job the best available coaching job in the NFL. 

    Here are King's words, verbatim:

    St. Louis will lead the NFL in cap room. St. Louis has its quarterback of the future, if you still believe in Sam Bradford, and I believe most people in the league still do. St. Louis will have either the first or second pick in the 2012 draft, assuming a loss to San Francisco Sunday, and with the lust for quarterbacks among teams in the top 10 (Miami, Washington, Indianapolis and maybe Buffalo and Cleveland), the Rams could turn the pick into something great.

    Well, the first pick could be turned into a gold mine—maybe three first-rounders. The second pick could bring quite a bit too, if either Robert Griffin III or maybe Landry Jones comes out in the draft.

    I know, I know. Many of you are saying the San Diego job, or the Miami job, will be better. And it may turn out that way. But think of the Rams if Bradford returns to 2010 form—and there's no reason to think he won't, unless you believe he's too brittle, which is possible.

    Think of three or four prime picks in the top 35 this year—or three this year and two next year. And think of a flood of free agents getting squeezed by a cap that's not going up much if at all in the next two years, and think what happens if the Rams can sign three or four very good players (Calais Campbell? Arian Foster? Mario Williams? Cliff Avril?) in the next two years.

    The Rams are heading into an interesting offseason.

    With all due respect to Mr. King, I beg to differ. 

    Yes, St. Louis will get a haul of great picks with the No. 2 pick should they choose to trade it. But if Indianapolis decides to trade their pick (still a possibility), they will get far less, especially if they trade their pick first. 

    That's why I considered them losers. They would've been far better off had Indianapolis won. 

    As for why I disagree with King, that's part of it, but here are some other reasons why:

    San Francisco: 13-3
    Arizona: 8-8
    Seattle: 7-9

    OK, no big deal, until you realize that A) the 49ers were one of the youngest teams in the NFL this season; B) Arizona will have a full offseason for Kevin Kolb to work with the team (I personally feel the contract plus the compressed offseason was detrimental to his development this season and he'll do better with a full offseason working with the Cardinals offense); and C) Tarvaris Jackson was Seattle's quarterback, and yet they were still in the race with two games left in the season and Seattle will get their quarterback during the offseason (Mark Sanchez, we'll discuss that later).

    This is a division that will be tough going for quite a while. San Diego is a much better destination for any prospective head coach, because they already have pieces in place on both sides of the ball and play in the weaker division.

    Will St. Louis hire a good head coach? Your guess is as good as mine.

    If they do, none of what I said matters. But the Rams job isn't the promised land that Peter King makes it out to be.  

Matt Flynn-Winner

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    In 1993, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino was sidelined by a torn Achilles' tendon injury and forced to miss the rest of the season. 

    In his place came Scott Mitchell, a former fourth-round pick from the Dolphins who wasn't exactly pegged as Marino's heir apparent, but he played like it in his first three games. 

    His numbers in those three games: 57-of-90 for 831 yards, five touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 100.7. 

    Mitchell would get hurt against Philadelphia in a game famous for being Don Shula's NFL record-setting 325th victory, but before getting hurt he went 8-of-17 for 150 yards, a touchdown and an interception. 

    Mitchell would miss the next three games against New England, Dallas and the Giants (Steve DeBerg, at the time 41 years old would fill in valiantly for him, going 2-1) before coming back against Buffalo. Mitchell would lose his last four games with the Dolphins, who would miss the playoffs. 

    However, Mitchell's numbers at the end of the season were still decent: 133-of-233 for 1,773 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions and an 84.2 quarterback rating. 

    There were even calls in Miami to trade Marino and re-sign Mitchell. Thankfully that didn't come to pass, as the Detroit Lions would sign Mitchell to a three-year $11 million contract to be their starting quarterback. 

    To this day, it was a bad investment for the Lions, who I'm sure if they could take it back and instead trade two first-rounders to Miami for Marino, they would do it (Marino and Barry Sanders in the same backfield, yikes, bet you Favre never wins a ring with those guys in his division). 

    So what does this have to do with Matt Flynn? 

    In his only start this season, Flynn went 31-of-44 for 480 yards, six touchdowns and one interception with a quarterback rating of 136.4.

    This is enough for teams with quarterback issues (Seattle, Miami, Washington, and the Jets) to possibly overpay Flynn for his services as he's an impending free agent who will likely never play in Green Bay unless something catastrophic happens to Aaron Rodgers

    Flynn likely made himself about $65 million on Sunday, with likely $25 million guaranteed. Think those numbers are steep?

    Well, that's $1.5 million more than what Kolb got from the Cardinals last offseason ($4 million more in guaranteed money) and while he was in Philadelphia, Kolb never had a game close to what Flynn did on Sunday. 

    So congratulations to Matt Flynn on winning the Scott Mitchell award for backup quarterback who's about to rob a quarterback-needy team blind!

    He might prove himself to be nothing more than a product of Mike McCarthy's system, but he'll become a rich man even if he flames out, much like Scott Mitchell. 

    Speaking of the Packers...

Aaron Rodgers MVP Bandwagon-Loser

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    By any measure, either statistically or based off of just wins and losses, Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's MVP. 

    Rodgers went 343-of-502 for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions. 

    That's a quarterback rating of 122.5. Oh, and he went 14-1 while doing that, too. Those numbers in only 15 games are incredible. 

    So what could possibly derail Rodgers from the NFL's MVP award?

    The man mentioned in the last slide. 

    Matt Flynn's numbers were already discussed in full detail. We already talked about how it made him at least $25 million guaranteed. 

    But much like I have questions about whether Flynn will become another Scott Mitchell, a lot of MVP voters might have questions asking if Rodgers is the reason that the Packers offense has been so smooth, or if Rodgers was a product of the system itself. 

    Believe it or not, those questions aren't new to Aaron Rodgers. It's the reason why Alex Smith was chosen ahead of him in the 2005 draft, and the reason why he slipped past QB-needy teams like Miami, Cleveland, Washington and Detroit (notice how three of those teams are still QB-needy even though this was a draft held seven years ago and none of those teams have the players they drafted in those spots this season). 

    Rodgers was viewed as a product of Jeff Tedford's system. Teford was Rodgers' coach at Cal.

    The other red flag—the other quarterbacks that came from his system (Trent Dilfer and David Carr at Fresno State, Aikili Smith and Joey Harrington at Oregon, and Kyle Boller at Cal) are not exactly the kind that inspires confidence. 

    The same "it's the system" prejudice that likely cost Rodgers millions of dollars (which he earned back) in the 2005 NFL draft now could cost him the 2011 MVP.

    If it does, this next guy wins it. 

Drew Brees MVP Bandwagon-Winner

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    In a way, the Saints having something to play for worked out well on Sunday, at least for Drew Brees

    Brees finished his game against Carolina on Sunday going 28-of-35 for 389 yards, five touchdowns and one interception for a quarterback rating of 140.7 in New Orleans' 45-17 victory over Carolina. 

    While the Saints couldn't grab the No. 2 seed and will have to play Detroit next week instead of resting (and also likely depriving us of "Harbaugh vs. Schwartz II: Electric Bugaloo" unless the Lions can pull off back-to-back upsets against the Saints AND Packers on the road), Brees was able to pad his stats and make his case for NFL MVP while Rodgers sat on the bench and watched Flynn make himself the most sought-after free agent of 2012. 

    Brees' numbers are not much better than Rodgers' when you consider that he had 120 more pass attempts than Rodgers and yet passed for only seven more interceptions and 444 more yards.

    While this makes Rodgers look more efficient (the way I'd look at it), it also underscores that Brees is more important to his team than Rodgers is, especially since we don't have a Chase Daniels game where he lit up the scoreboard this season. 

    Will this swing some MVP voters? It wouldn't swing me, as Rodgers was more efficient and beat Brees when they played each other, but there are plenty others it might swing. 

    Honorable "Winners" mention goes to Tom Brady, by the way. Brady had a signature Tom Brady season, finished second all-time in single-season passing yardage to Brees, and much like Rodgers has his team as the No. 1 seed in his conference, but with a worse defense than either Brees or Rodgers.

    Brady should get some MVP votes, especially from the voters in the Northeast.

    But don't expect Brady to win the MVP this year, due to the "Michael Jordan syndrome," where writers are tired of awarding the MVP to the same guy every year. Brady has two MVPs, while neither Rodgers nor Brees have won it.

    Once you factor those in, plus the similar numbers they each have, it will likely go to either Rodgers or Brees.

Dan Marino-Loser

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    Let me explain—it's not that I think he's a loser.

    He's my favorite athlete of all time. It's just that he's held the single-season passing record for the last 26 years. 

    In 26 years, the closest anyone got to breaking Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record was Drew Brees three years ago.

    This year, not only did Brees break the record, but Tom Brady also moved ahead of Dan Marino. 

    Marino has already seen his single-season and career touchdown records fall, and now his single-season yardage record has gone by the wayside, too. With the current trends in NFL offense plus the rules meant to enhance the passing game, it's likely that we've only seen the beginning. 

    Marino will wind up slipping to third, fourth or possibly as far as fifth in many major single-season and career passing records where he's currently first.

    This season, with Brady and Brees passing him in terms of yards in a single season, served not just as a reminder, but also a harbinger of things to come. 

    My best bet on future quarterbacks who will likely hold some of those records—Aaron Rodgers for touchdowns in a season (next year I see him passing for 52 for some reason); Tom Brady for passing yards all-time; and the single-season yards mark will be broken again next year, likely by either Brady or Brees. 

    But all-time in his career: either Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. I've never been one to hype young quarterbacks before they prove something, but both Cam Newton and Andrew Luck will likely wind up breaking some of Marino's prolific passing records.

    Brady won't, because he didn't really become a prolific passer until around 2006, Brees won't because age will eventually catch up to him, Rodgers won't because he spent too much time behind Brett, and Peyton Manning won't because I don't see him getting this season back regardless of where he winds up next season. 

    But between Newton's playmaking abilities and Luck's intelligence, either one of those guys are prime candidates to break Marino's records. 

    In the end, thank the rule changes. Once you factor those in, while Dan might lose his records, his 1984 season is still the best season by a quarterback in NFL history. 

Detroit Lions-Losers

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    The Lions went into Sunday already with their playoff berth clinched and only playing for seeding. 

    A win over the Packers' second unit gets Detroit a trip to either Dallas or New York (it would turn out to be New York, as we'll cover later on) against either a team with no running game and problems stopping the run or a team with no running game that can be passed on as long as your quarterback can pick up the blitz (again, it was the former, but we're discussing the scenarios that Detroit faced at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday). 

    A loss would force the Lions to make a trip to New Orleans to face probably the best quarterback in the NFL and an offense that is currently clicking on all cylinders that only a few weeks ago destroyed the Lions with precision. 

    Good job, Lions, because of your defense's inability to stop the Packers' system regardless of who the quarterback is, you have to face Drew Brees in New Orleans as opposed to a Giants team that the Lions would give plenty of problems to. 

    I hope you got your gift baskets from the next team on my list. 

Atlanta Falcons-Winners

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    Falcons vs. Saints games are always fun, and it would've been especially fun had the Lions beaten Green Bay and forced the Falcons to head back to New Orleans for a third round. 

    Yes, I do think Atlanta had a better shot of beating New Orleans than Detroit would have (it's tough to beat a team three times in one season, especially when two of those matchups come within two weeks of each other), but I'm sure the Falcons will take what they have now. 

    A trip to the Meadowlands to face the Giants. 

    New York can't stop the run. Atlanta runs the ball well.

    Hard to believe that the team that plays in a dome in Atlanta is better suited for a playoff game in the Meadowlands than the team that plays in the Meadowlands, but that's exactly the case for Sunday afternoon's game.

    And while fans would rather see Saints-Falcons III (at least I would've rather seen it), that will have to wait until the NFC Championship game if it does happen (unlikely, but a possibility). 

    The Falcons I'm sure will be fine with that, though. The Giants seem like a better matchup for them.

    However, here's the caveat—if the Mike Smith-Matt Ryan Falcons don't win on Sunday, there will be some questions. That combination is responsible for Atlanta's best run of success thus far (three playoff appearances in four years), but not a single playoff win.

    Sunday afternoon's game is their best shot at winning No. 1 from a matchup perspective. 

Rob Ryan-Loser

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    The Dallas Cowboys went 8-8 this season and found themselves again on the outside looking in. 

    Knowing how things work in Big D, plenty of blame is set to go around in Cowboys Nation. 

    Some blame will surely go to Tony Romo, even though Romo's numbers actually do not support this.

    Yes, Romo cost the Cowboys two games against the Jets and Lions earlier this season, but you could also make the argument that games against San Francisco, Washington (both times) and Miami were won almost solely because of Romo's performance. 

    Others will blame Jason Garrett, which in a way makes sense.

    I would say he cost Dallas a couple of games because of his scared style and his lack of trust in Tony Romo. Oh yeah, and I'll again have to ask, who the hell ices their own kicker?

    But Garrett will be back, and if anything is more likely to return than Romo (if Peyton hits the open market, Jerry Jones will surely make a play for him). 

    But offense, which Romo plays on and which Garrett specializes in, really wasn't Dallas' problem. 

    Dallas' problem is on defense. This season, they allowed 5,054 yards on defense. Not bad, good enough for middle of the pack actually, but not great either. 

    But they also allowed 21.1 points per game. That's three touchdowns per game. Yikes! No bueno. 

    The reason? Well, you can't pin it on one person, but Rob Ryan will surely get most of the blame. 

    Ryan has at times been considered a top coaching candidate in the NFL, but this year might not be a good year for him to make the move. Jon Gruden will likely make a comeback, as will Jeff Fisher and Brian Billick. There are a few hot coordinators out there who will get looks as well. 

    Then you have Miami's and Kansas City's situations, which we'll look at in just a little bit. And in a little bit of foreshadowing, I wouldn't be too surprised if the Jets' job opened up, but I doubt they'd replace one Ryan with another. 

    Already Rob Ryan looks like the weakest candidate in a field that seems to have more coaches willing to take on head coaching jobs than open jobs. The fact that his team faltered on defense down the stretch and missed the playoffs because of it won't help his case at all.

    It also doesn't help matters for Coach Ryan that former Cowboys coach Wade Phillips took over the Houston defense and had them ranked second in the league.  

    But at least he didn't have the worst weekend in his family (more foreshadowing, keep reading). 

Tom Coughlin-Winner

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    If there's one guarantee I could make every season, it's that at some point, I will feel bad for Tom Coughlin. 

    Coughlin is a great coach, yet he's always on the hot seat for one reason or another.

    However, you can't overlook the fact that his teams have always played hard and have always handled themselves with class (well, there's a few exceptions, but come on, when you're coaching a team with 53 guys plus constant turnovers from one year to the next, you're due for at least one guy to screw up—the numbers just aren't in your favor). 

    As a Dolphins fan, I'd love to have Coughlin coach this team. I've felt this way since he was in Jacksonville.

    Sure, his style gets grating, but these aren't the days of Don Shula coaching one team for 25 years anymore—everyone needs a change of scenery from time to time (see Jeff Fisher, another one of my favorites). 

    So it's a good thing that the Giants won the NFC East if you're Tom Coughlin for obvious reasons. Outside of Eli Manning, this team isn't that good talent-wise. Coughlin literally got the most he could out of this team, all despite more rumors of him being on the hot seat. 

    That talk can cool it, at least until the Giants start 2-4 next season and we'll be hearing it all over again. 

Rex Ryan-Loser

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    One would think that you would get a pass for having a .500 season with an aging team after going to two straight AFC Championship games. 

    While that's true for most coaches, that might not be the case for Rex Ryan

    Ryan has nothing but his mouth to blame for this.

    If he were a bit less boastful and loud, odds are he would get more of a pass. Instead, he'll likely be faced with a choice—either fire his offensive coordinator, or be forced to leave with said offensive coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer, just in case you didn't know).

    It doesn't help that three straight losses did the Jets in, especially when one loss came to their stadium-mates in what was supposed to be a Jets home game, and the other loss came to one of their biggest rivals—rivals that despite going into the game at 5-10 seemed to play with more passion, heart and urgency than the team that was 8-7 and fighting for a playoff berth.  

    Even if Ryan does just that and the Jets bring in either a Mike Martz, Jim Fassel or Norv Turner as their new offensive coordinator, 2012 will likely be a do-or-die season for Rex. 

    Expect him and the Jets to overreact and panic this offseason. They'll likely do exactly what I stated in the last sentence, but also wave good bye to The Sanchize and go hard on either Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. 

    What this means for Mark Sanchez will be discussed later. 

Todd Bowles-Winner

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    When Todd Bowles was named interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins three weeks ago, I would've thought you were crazy if you told me he'd be a top candidate for the job. 

    But when you go 2-1 while outscoring your opponents—all of them division opponents—73-67, and keep your team's biggest rival out of the playoffs, there might be a chance that you will not only be interviewed for the full time job the week after the season, but could be named the permanent head coach that week. 

    However, I don't think Bowles will get the job simply because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross specifically wants an offensive-oriented coach, a big-name coach or preferably both.

    But Bowles will get a serious look from the Dolphins this year, and in the next few years, he will have a full-time permanent head coaching job in the NFL. 

Romeo Crennell-Winner

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    Sorry, I broke the pattern.

    Usually I go winners-losers-winners-losers until the end, but since Romeo Crennell's situation isn't too different from Bowles' situation, I lumped them together. 

    Everything I said about Bowles applies to Crennel.

    Much like Todd Bowles, Crennell won his first game as his teams' interim coach. The difference—Crennell beat the Packers, while Bowles beat the Bills. Big difference, obviously. 

    Much like Bowles, Crennell lost his second game on the job in a close battle against a divisional foe. Also much like Bowles, Crennell's final game of the season was a victory over a division opponent who was playing for a playoff spot (the only difference is that Denver got in anyways thanks to an Oakland loss). 

    However while I still find it unlikely that Todd Bowles will be Miami's head coach next season, Romeo Crennell will likely be Kansas City's coach in 2012. 

    His relationship with Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli goes all the way back to when the two were in New England, which obviously is a big help. Now factor in the fact that the Chiefs will be getting back a healthy Matt Cassell and Jamal Charles next season and they play in a very winnable division. 

    Based off of what we saw in the last three games of the season, this Chiefs team will be fine with Crennell at the helm, and the Chiefs will likely notice the same thing. 

Oakland Raiders-Losers

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    With the Broncos losing, the Raiders just had to beat the Chargers and they were on their way to the playoffs. 

    However, Oakland lost, the Chargers won, there was a three-way 8-8 tie for first in the AFC West, the Broncos won based off of the tiebreakers and now will host the Steelers next Sunday.

    What more is there to say? 

    OK, I can say just a little bit more. 

    The Raiders miss out on the playoffs again this season due to stupidity. This season they set a record for most penalties and penalty yards in a season with 159 penalties for 1,304 yards.

    Discipline is usually the difference between making and missing the playoffs, and Oakland lacked discipline this season as obviously seen in their penalties and yardage. 

Pittsburgh Steelers-Winners

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    This is a good year to be an AFC Wild Card team. A VERY good year. 

    On deck for the Steelers and Bengals—two of the weakest division winners of the last few years. 

    We'll discuss Cincinnati in a few, but the Steelers and their defense must be chomping at the bit to get to Denver. 

    Now am I leaving Denver for dead against the Steelers next Sunday? Not exactly.

    Even though they ended on a three-game losing streak, anything can happen in the playoffs, especially when you have home-field advantage. We all learned that last season when the 12-4 Saints travelled to Seattle to face a 7-9 NFC West champions Seahawks team that pulled off the upset. 

    But on a rational level, how can you see the Broncos getting past Pittsburgh?

    Yes, the game is in Denver, and yes, Tebow seems to have these qualities that can win games, but the Broncos really haven't beaten anyone good in two years (going back to the year before Tebow was drafted), and now they're expected to beat the defending AFC Champions who also have the perfect defense to shut down Tebow and the Broncos offense AND have a chip on their shoulder and feel like they have unfinished business from last year? 

    Sorry, Broncos fans, but before I can be convinced that Tebow (who I actually like a lot) and the Broncos can beat the team that's either the first- or second-best team in the AFC, I might want to see them beat Buffalo first. 

    Pittsburgh is a winner, because while they'd be favored had they played the Broncos or Raiders, I'd at least give Oakland some semblance of a shot against them. The Broncos, not so much. 

    Calling it right now: Steelers vs. Ravens III in Baltimore a week from Sunday. 

Cincinnati Bengals-Winners

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    A rookie quarterback, rookie wide receiver and a lame duck coach meant that everyone had the Bengals going 4-12 at best. 

    Many expected Bengals coach Marvin Lewis to be one of the first head coaches fired in 2011. They were wrong by a lot. 

    Instead, Lewis leads a Bengals team that will be headed to the postseason for only the third time since 1990 (lost in that stat, it's their second trip to the playoffs in the last three years).

    Once you factor in their age in comparison to usual AFC North powers Pittsburgh and Baltimore and their two first-round picks, they'll only get better in 2012, too. 

    Then there's their playoff matchup. Houston has a tough defense, and there's no doubt about that—but there are too many question marks surrounding the Texans (especially at quarterback) for me to feel confident about them winning in the playoffs. 

    Even though the Bengals lost to Houston in Cincinnati only three weeks ago, I could not only see the Bengals pulling off the victory, I actually expect it. 

Peyton Manning-Loser

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    This is one of those "maybes" and a slide I was reluctant to put in (which is why it's near the end and not at the beginning). 

    With the Colts getting the No. 1 pick, Peyton Manning is a loser in the sense that either he'll have Andrew Luck breathing down his throat, he'll be released so that the Colts won't have to take his cap hit next season or the Colts will trade the pick to build around him. 

    That's two out of three things for Peyton that won't be good. 

    Say the Colts decide to keep both and Peyton struggles in his first couple of games back next season. How long will it be before Colts fans and the media start calling for Luck to play? I highly doubt Manning will get the kid glove treatment he rightfully deserves in a situation like that. 

    Then, of course, if the Colts cut him, Peyton stands to lose a ton of money. That might not seem like a big deal to us fans since Peyton has plenty of money to last plenty of lifetimes over, but think about this—if you wound up losing any money because of a situation that you had absolutely no control over in the end, would you be happy? 

    Exactly. I wouldn't be happy either. 

    Right there that's two terrible situations to possibly be in, and that's not counting the fact that if he's released,  Peyton Manning won't likely go to the teams that would be the best fit for him (Seattle, San Francisco or Tennessee) and instead wind up going to one of the two most pressurized situations in the NFL (either the Jets or Cowboys). 

    Either way, it doesn't look good for Peyton unless the Colts make a firm decision by March 1st. If they're going to go with Manning, keep him and shop the No. 1 pick (there will be plenty of takers) and build not only around him but also grab his successor late in the draft (Kellen Moore since he could use a few years to develop but can wind up being a good NFL quarterback). 

    However, if the Colts are dead-set on Luck, release Manning and thank him for his efforts the last 15 years on making them relevant. 

Mark Sanchez-Loser

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    I'll finish where I started—a picture of good old No. 99. 

    But obviously based on the title of this slide, this isn't about him.

    Instead, it's about the gentleman being sacked by him. 

    Mark Sanchez will not be the Jets' starting quarterback next year. 

    Even though he's not as big a problem with Gang Green as he's made out to be, the pressure of Rex having to win next year, plus the possibility of Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn coming to New York would be too big for the Jets to pass up. 

    I would say that Sanchez should file a lawsuit against his offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but while Sanchez is a loser today, I don't see this being the overall trend. 

    Here's a fact—Mark Sanchez is only 25 years old. Most quarterbacks don't reach their peak until around 27 or 28. 

    Here's another fact—Sanchez has gone to two straight AFC Championship games. This despite the fact that he's only been in the league for three years and has played in one of the toughest places for a young quarterback to play. 

    Here's yet another fact—Pete Carroll was his coach at USC. 

    Why bring that up? Because while Sanchez is a loser today, things will turn up well for the former USC Trojan. 

    Once the Jets either sign Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn, they will have to do something with Mark Sanchez. Releasing him would be stupid since they gave up so much to acquire him in the 2009 draft and would admit failure.

    What's even dumber is that statistically he had his best season, and did I mention he's only 25 years old? So why would you release someone like that? Especially with so many teams needing a quarterback.

    Mark Sanchez will start in the NFL next season, but not for the Jets.

    Instead he'll head back to the West Coast and reunite with Pete Carroll in Seattle. While there, Sanchez will have plenty of weapons to choose from in an offense more suited to his talents while contending for the NFC West. Gone will be the pressure of being New York's "Sanchize" as instead he'll get the chance to develop further with a team much better suited to him. 

    Sanchez to Seattle for two second-rounders and a fourth-rounder seems like a great deal for both parties and is just too smart for either team to pass up. Look out for this possibility on draft day. 

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