Who's Hot, Who's Not Heading into NFL Postseason and Offseason

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2013

Who's Hot, Who's Not Heading into NFL Postseason and Offseason

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    Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    As we close the book on another NFL regular season, it's time to start looking at the playoffs and offseason.

    For some, the offseason is already kicking off, while others—well a few of them are just delaying the inevitable, but for the most part, it's the playoffs, and anything can happen.

    One thing everyone has in common is momentum—some of them have good momentum, and some have bad momentum.

    While by no means does being "hot" or "cold" mean all is well or all is lost, but it's certainly informing a starting point for discussion.

    A lot of the people on this list are involved in the playoffs, where momentum is critical. But some didn't make the cut.

    Of course, as you will find, that doesn't mean the momentum they have is negative.

HOT: Rex Ryan, (Still) Head Coach of the New York Jets

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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Jets wasted no time in announcing they were keeping Rex Ryan, via Marc Sessler of NFL.com, as head coach for the 2014 NFL season.

    When you coach a team which was largely assumed to be heading for a two- or three-win season and get them to an 8-8 record, you usually get to stick around.

    The Jets had no wide receivers—save for Jeremy Kerley—and a rookie quarterback who struggled an awful lot.

    Some conversations have leaned toward this decision as a sign that Jets GM John Idzik may have lost a power struggle behind the scenes. Certainly, some will cite compelling evidence that new GMs don't hang on to coaches they didn't pick, like Chase Stuart at FootballPerspective.com.

    Certainly we thought Idzik might not like Ryan and the early signs pointed to him  as a "lame-duck" coach, so if that's the case, Ryan seems to have won.

    We'll see how firm and guaranteed the contract extension is, but considering where he started out, Ryan is definitely hot going into the season.

NOT: Andy Dalton

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    We may look back on this win over the Baltimore Ravens and think that the Cincinnati Bengals and Andy Dalton won the battle but lost the war.

    I get that they’re in the postseason for the third time in Dalton’s three seasons.

    That said, let’s look at the times he’s led them there before.

    In 2011, they lost in the first round to the Houston Texans. “Lost” isn’t strong enough really—they were blown off the field.

    Dalton threw for three interceptions, no touchdowns and just 257 yards.

    In 2012, they once again met the Houston Texans and, again, were one and done.

    It was closer, but Dalton threw for a paltry 127 yards and a pick. Once again, he had no touchdowns and completed just 14 of 30 pass attempts.

    After the four interceptions against the Baltimore Ravens—some of them horrible decisions—you can’t trust Dalton.

    He’s just been too hot and cold all season long, and Sunday, he looked really cold.

HOT: Peyton Manning and the Denver Offense

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    This one is simple.

    Peyton Manning set a record for passing touchdowns with 55 on the year and also managed to break New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ single-season passing-yards record with 5,477 yards (Brees’ mark was 5,476).

    Demaryius Thomas will end the season with 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Eric Decker totaled 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns.

    Despite missing three games, Wes Welker had 778 yards and 10 touchdowns and would have challenged the 1,000-yard mark. Tight end Julius Thomas—a guy almost nobody expected anything from due to a pair of terrible previous years.

    And yet he had a career year where he too almost topped 1,000 yards, totaling 788 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

    Even Knowshon Moreno—the guy rookie Montee Ball was drafted to replace, who had all but been railroaded out of town—had a great year, cracking 1,000 yards for the first time ever.

    This offense is on fire right now, and they’d better be—because the defense is largely suspect. With Von Miller hurt, the defense has some question marks, and it could be up to the offense to carry them to a Super Bowl.

NOT: Cleveland Browns

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    I get that sometimes you hire someone and find out—much quicker than you expected—he isn't a good fit.

    But firing head coach (now former head coach) Rob Chudzinski after a year makes the Browns look idiotic.

    What, exactly, did they expect him to do with no quarterback, a poor running back (whom they then traded) and Josh Gordon?

    Then, of course, the injuries pile up under center, and the team folds late in the season.

    It's one season. Did they expect a Kansas City-like turnaround? If so, they were clearly insane because the talent wasn't there.

    I am not a fan of Chudzinski. More than once I blamed him for some bad offensive play in Carolina. I didn't like the hire for Cleveland.

    But you don't kick a guy to the curb when you've put him in a position to fail.

    By the way, you can miss on a hire. It happens.

    What you cannot do is miss on your first hire.

    That's just a bad look.

    You have to wonder what head coaching candidates will think when they look at how the Browns handled their former coach.

Hot: Andrew Luck

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Over the last four games, Luck has thrown for 747 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. While he has had a rough season overall, Luck has played very well over the last month.

    And while the Kansas City Chiefs were resting their starters in a game which was largely meaningless, the Indianapolis Colts were going hard in a game that was completely meaningless.

    While the Colts won’t have it easy, Luck is peaking at the right time.

NOT: Russell Wilson

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Not that they need him to be perfect, but the Seattle Seahawks might feel a bit better if Russell Wilson was building some momentum.

    His 172-yard, one-touchdown performance against the St. Louis Rams wasn’t a one-time thing—the three weeks prior saw him throw for just 513 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.

    When you have Marshawn Lynch to run the ball and the Seahawks defense, you can probably get by on less-than-incredible quarterback play.

    But the Seahawks won’t be beating up on the Rams or a punch-drunk New York Giants team in the playoffs.

    When they went up against San Francisco and Arizona and Wilson struggled, they lost.

    Wilson has a week off to settle down and reboot.

    Hopefully he can find a way to get some momentum going, because at some point during the playoffs, the Seahawks will probably need him to win a game.

    Even at home.

HOT: Cordarrelle Patterson

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    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    It took most of the season, but it appears that Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave have figured out rookie Cordarrelle Patterson is pretty good.

    The last few weeks it seems they have decided that the more they get the ball in his hands, the better.

    It probably won't save either of them from a pink slip—indeed it's damn compelling ground for them getting one—but whoever comes into Minnesota next will want to take note.

    Patterson has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last five games. He is deadly with it in his hands, and whether he is catching the ball or taking a handoff, he is a real handful for opposing defenses.

    Some of his route-running is still raw, and he has dropped a few passes he shouldn't have, but he has been increasingly more consistent and will only get better.

    He's come into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation a bit too late—and with Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen's teams in the playoffs, would have a tough argument anyway—but over the next few years, we will see he is likely to be as big of a factor in his team's success as either of those two players.

NOT: Nick Foles

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    Now, Nick Foles came out a winner, and his stats were solid, but there was an aspect of his game I saw which I really disliked—he looked rattled.

    The Dallas Cowboys brought a lot of pressure on him (they sacked him five times), and it got to him. He short-armed throws, didn’t set his feet and often looked out of sorts.

    Having the New Orleans Saints come to Philadelphia makes this game more favorable for the Eagles, but the Saints defense under Rob Ryan has been much better than its 2012 version.

    It can and will bring the heat on Foles.

    If the Saints can hit him, they can rattle him, and if they rattle him—well, let’s just say that the Saints don’t have to depend on Kyle Orton to win a game.

    Foles has had a tremendous season and could bounce back. But we saw him crack a bit under pressure, and that’s bound to get some attention in the defensive meetings down in New Orleans.

HOT: Colin Kaepernick

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s be honest and blunt—Colin Kaepernick has not been good this year.

    Not in a “he’s been average” or “he’s been disappointing” way, but poor and, at times, downright bad.

    However, starting Week 12, Kaepernick has played much better—though still a bit inconsistently.

    Most importantly, he's not turning the ball over.

    This week, against a tough Arizona Cardinals defense, Kaepernick had a very good game, totaling 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns with no turnovers.

    Keapernick seemed to heat up going into the playoffs last year.

    One game does not make a playoff, but he looks like a guy getting ready to make trouble.

NOT: Officiating

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    There's no other way to end this article but to point out that, yet again, we end a Sunday with games that have been altered due to terrible officiating.

    While I was pulling for the San Diego Chargers, they won in part because the officials missed two calls—one with a mistake regarding forward progress before a fumble which would have resulted in a touchdown, per Mike Pereira of Fox Sports.

    The other was an illegal formation on a Chiefs missed field goal, also per Pereira.

    This season seems to have been a constant barrage of not only poor officiating but also poor officiating which has altered the outcome of games at critical moments.

    The Carolina-New England non-call in mid-November. Washington losing a down due to a miscommunication with officials, costing them a game against the New York Giants. The garbage late-hit penalty the New Orleans Saints got against the San Francisco 49ers.

    And we haven't even tapped into the amount of questionable flags on "defenseless wide receivers" or the ridiculous "roughing-the-passer" calls we see when a defensive player breathes on a star quarterback.

    The officiating has been inconsistent and, at times, downright horrendous. We're entering into the playoffs, and it's a good bet we will see poor officiating deciding the outcome of games.

    You want to complain about a Super Bowl which has been impacted by the weather? Let's talk about having one where officiating has a bigger effect than any one player on the field.

    This offseason the league needs to take a close look at the officials.

    Because in 2013, they're most definitely not hot.

     

    Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.